On Using Voices To Sell

For a few years now I’ve noticed TV commercials using the voices of well-known actors to advertise services and products. I started paying attention to these voices during the 2012 Summer Olympics. It was an ad for VISA, and the reassuring, trustworthy voice was that of Morgan Freeman:

There are other examples too. In an Esurance ad, we hear the voice of John Krasinski, better known as the character Jim from the NBC show, The Office.

In a Verizon ad, we hear the voice of Ty Burrell, better known as the character Phil Dunphy from the ABC show, Modern Family.

And in a TD Bank ad, we hear the voice of Matt Damon, best known as, well, Matt Damon.


I don’t generally pay attention to what is advertised in these ads–credit cards, telephone service, and banking services aren’t exactly in the sweet spot of my range interests and expertise.

But I do notice voices because voices contain so much subtle information that is impossible not to register. (Is sound more subliminally powerful that visual stimuli?) Listening to the ads I find myself thinking about how strongly voices signify different things and telegraph different affects out into the world. I don’t know Freeman, Kasinski, Burrell, or Damon, but I know their voices. In fact, their voices are familiar enough to me and millions of others through the characters these actors have played in films and on television that it feels as though on some level I/we actually do know them. Here, familiar sound nudges us towards trust. Trust the voice, trust the services and products.

What’s interesting in this regard is how the voices of these actors somehow aggregate together in my imagination into a single meta-voice of a character who is reliable, trustworthy, responsible, smart and a little knowing too (wink wink). Such is the power of sound that even though we don’t see the actors’ faces in the ads, their voices still manage to telegraph a sense of good sense. As I said, I don’t have any particular interest in the companies on whose behalf Freeman’s, Kasinski’s, Burrell’s, and Damon’s voices are speaking, yet the sounds draw me in with reassurance that at least in the case of VISA, Esurance, Verizon, or TD Bank–everything is, or will continue to be, smooth sailing.

Now that’s a sound sales pitch!