The Read That Wouldn't Die

The report of my death was an exaggeration. - Mark Twain

The Announcer Read is dead. Everyone says so. No professional talks in that ridiculous, fake, old-fashioned, overly enthused, declamatory style any more. We all hated it so much that it finally passed away from shame and humiliation. Yay! Now we can all just speak normally and communicate as one enlightened human being to another.

But - excuse me for asking - if the Announcer Read is dead, why do I still hear it?

All the time?

The Announcer Read was pronounced dead 20 years ago. And 40 years ago, too. I was there; I remember. But somehow it seems to live on. Back in the 70's you might have heard a v/o performance like this one. Twenty years later, gurus were calling that the "new read." Compare it to a commercial that's airing today, and you may wonder whether the Announcer Read is even feeling woozy.

Experiment 1

I decided to view the lifeless corpse of the Announcer Read, so I tuned my radio to a popular, local FM station. At the first commercial break, this is what I heard:

Station promo - live announcer
Giveaway spot/promo - live announcer
Short entertainment feature - real person body/announcer tag
Local event spot - announcer
DQ national spot - announcer
Dodge Ram Truck national spot - announcer
Local roofing company spot - announcer
Get Go regional commercial - announcer
BFGoodrich national tire spot - ?
Race track spot - announcer
PSA - local - real person
Local contractor commercial - announcer
Weather forecast with sponsorship - live announcer

That was all one break. I wonder why radio is having such difficulty these days? Hmm.  Well, that's a puzzler for another time. The question mark beside the Goodrich spot means that some people might hear this read one way, some another. I'll gladly slide that to the Non-Announcer column.

So in 13 messages there were only 3 (three) non-announcer-people speaking: The young lady who read the body of the feature, the non-pro PSA lady, and the Goodrich guy. 11 messages employed Announcer reads (remember that the feature used two voices).

Experiment 2

I did the same test with my television. Here's what happened in the first commercial break:

Network promo - announcer
Volvo commercial - graphics, no voice
Jergens moisturizer - announcer
Gerber Pudding Grabbers - non-announcer voices in body/announcer tag
Spice Islands - non-announcer
Unstopables Air Refresher - announcer
Nexium 24-Hour/Walmart - announcer
Popeyes - on-cam spokesperson

The non-announcer read was better represented here than in the radio break, but it was still overrun by the Undead Read. Do your own observation. Take note of how deceased the Announcer Read isn't.

What difference, at this or any other point, does it make?

Why does this matter? Well, as a voiceover instructor, I want my students to be prepared to do the work that is actually available. If you launch a v/o career without the ability to read for retail commercials and phone prompts and award shows and other <gasp!> Announcer jobs, you're leaving most of the pie on the table. If you do that to yourself intentionally, that's just sad.

But this myth also matters to clients, and to our work in the industry. It has become cliché to post, "No Announcers, Please." After the job is won, in the recording session we voice actors may get direction like, "More energy," "Needs a bit of class and polish," "Watch your diction" and so on, until the end result is what could have been called an Announcer Read.

This just makes for inefficiency, frustration and mediocrity.

The Announcer Read is not dead, it's not passé, and it’s not beneath our dignity. It's a style, like all voiceover styles. It's a tool. And I, for one, want my toolbox full.

I feel like I'm defending the Announcer Read, but I'm not. I'm just asking us to acknowledge that it exists. And that it's likely to outlive all of us. What good purpose does it serve to pretend otherwise?


© 2015 Dan Popp