Radio Hed: One Voice Dialogue Can Save Your Commercial

Radio-Hed-Logo-2By Jeffrey Hedquist

You’ve written a dialogue spot but you don’t have available or affordable talent who can make it work. Don’t compromise its effectiveness with non-actors. But don’t kill that concept yet.

Get one voice to do both parts. It can work better than an unnatural conversation between a salesperson and traffic director trying to act, and it might just be different enough to stand out.

Rewrite your dialogue commercial as if it were part of an audiobook. You’ll have to trim the script to fit in the transitional “he said, she replied, he mumbled” phrases, but now it can work.

Whoever reads the spots doesn’t have to become a character to imitate another person’s voice; they can just embody the attitude of the other person. They can try to make characters distinguishable in subtle ways: changes in tempo, cadence, volume, breathiness, etc. They should listen for the other voice’s cadence in their head.

You can improve your skill at this by listening to well-done audiobooks to hear how the narrator carries this off.

The “narrator’s” job is to facilitate the words, their intent, to give an actual voice to the story. If we act too much, then people listening will pay more attention to the voices than the story. We want to capture their imagination and motivate them to act.

The dialogue could be a conversation between two people, between a person and an inanimate object/pet/body part or among several people. There are few limits.

I get on the phone, ready to do battle. “Look, I know it’s been a while since I bought the carpet, but it just doesn’t look right in our living room.”

She says, “No problem, sir.” I’m thinking, “What?!”

Then she tells me, “Just bring it back and we’ll find you one that you’ll be happy with.”

All she hears from my end is silence, because I’m dumbfounded.

“Sir?” she says. I tell her, “Uh, yeah. I’ll be down tomorrow.”

Your commercial could be a dialogue between one person and his/her inner thoughts. Add a little echo and filtering to the “inner” voice and you won’t need the transitional phrases.

Ken Nordine pioneered this technique with great skill. Check him out.

Even though it’s one voice telling the story, show participants’ reactions:

She just looked at me and didn’t say anything. I shuffled my feet, trying to look cool.

Then she started to cry. I felt stupid.

Fifteen minutes later I was at the counter at Kirkland Florist. “Got anything that says ‘I’m sorry for being such a jerk?’” Penny Kirkland, the owner looked at me sympathetically and said, “Give me a minute. I think I have just the thing.”

You never know what can inspire using this technique.

I recognized her even from across the room. “Julie!” I called out. She ran over and surprised me with a hug. “I’ve missed you,” she breathed. In an instant I was transported back 5 years. “I’ve missed you too,” I said. “Thought I’d never see you again.” Then she looked deeply into my eyes and asked, “Will you give me some feedback on a commercial I’ve created using this ‘one voice’ technique?”

“OK,” I said. “Just email me. It’s jeffrey@hedquist.com” She looked at me skeptically and said, “Oh sure, but will you reply?” I said, “Try me.” So she did. And I did.

© 1997-2012 Hedquist Productions, Inc. All rights reserved.

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