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  • Writer's pictureDrew Carpetner

Latest Trends and Technologies in the Voice Over Industry

Updated: May 13

Latest Trends and Tech in the VO Industry

Drew Carpenter's Take on the Trends in the Voice Over Industry

The voice over industry is constantly evolving, driven by technological advancements and changing consumer preferences. Staying informed about these trends is crucial for anyone involved in selecting voice talent, as it can influence decision-making and strategy. Here's what's shaping the future of voice over:

AI and Synthetic Voices in the Voice Over Industry

There are few people left on earth who haven’t been dizzied by the rapid rollout of generative A.I. We are all watching with both awe and some reasonably placed fear, and voice over actors and other media producers are likely among the most troubled by the tech.

Let me weigh in from where I stand. I've seen a handful of clients, eager to cut corners in time and budget, jump on the AI bandwagon. But here’s the kicker: nearly all of them have come running back to human actors. Why? Well, the reasons are both expected and surprising.

First off, many end clients are raising eyebrows at the idea. The only decent-sounding A.I. voice models are available to anyone with a credit card and they tend to end up everywhere, on ALL types of content. Imagine a business discovering its brand voice is also hawking extremist conspiracy theories all over TikTok. Not exactly the image they're going for. And at their best, these AI voices conger up the same feeling as waiting on hold with your credit card company. Not exactly the best foot forward for a brand.

Another caveat to AI is that content generated by these platforms cannot be copyrighted and privacy cannot be guaranteed. It’s spelled out quite clearly in their terms of service. This makes them a complete non-starter for internal a whole host of clients.

The next most common reason is that while some A.I. voices can be convincing, especially for short reads, the time required for producers to massage them into being decent sounding costs more than just hiring a human. A.I. has yet to capture the nuance of intent and inflection without involvement far beyond hiring an actual actor.

Consider the nuances lost in translation when emphasizing different words in the same sentence:

  • “We went to DREW’S house.” It's about going to Drew's place, not Brian's, not Mom's—John's

  • “We went to Drew’s HOUSE.” It speaks to the location; we're talking about his home, not his office or workshop

  • "WE went to Drew’s house.” It underscores the collective action; it wasn't a solo journey or just the kids—we all went.

Humans excel at inferring meaning through context, tone, and numerous subtleties beyond just emphasis. AI's failure to convey these intricacies paints the communication as unsettling and incomplete. Viewers are getting remarkably adept at telling the difference too and many of them don’t like it. Branding thrives on trust and consistency, key areas where AI falls short.

Sure, AI can say the words of human speech, but communication encompasses a heck of a lot more. Good storytelling, the core of great advertising or training or entreatment is great because it takes the listener across a spectrum of emotions. Conflict, surprise, relief, delight, and so on. It relies on the nuanced delivery of tone, pace, projection, and emphasis, and many other things we don’t have words for. If all it took was saying the words, advertising would be pretty easy, and pretty grey.

Ask any ad exec and they will tell you getting a good ROAS is a monumental task, and millions of dollars are wasted every day in the pursuit of it. The smart ones aren’t going to try and save a few hundred or a few thousand dollars when they are dropping several orders of magnitude more for the airtime. It’s penny wise and pound foolish.

In the end, AI voice tech is making strides but it's not ready to step into our shoes. As for when it'll get there, well, weren’t we all supposed to be zipping around in self-driving cars by now? A friend of mine recently had his “self-driving” car try to exit the interstate for a weight station. The sign even had all the right words on it too. Let's just say, the future has a way of surprising us, but some things—like the art of human connection—aren't going to go down easily.

Decline of Talent Agency Involvement

As much as I love and respect my agents, this is sadly becoming a harder and harder business for them while the good ones still provide every bit as much value to both buyers and the talent they represent. As a VO, I’m always happy to have an agent on board to help and I believe the good ones more than earn their commissions. It’s a partnership with both sides providing value.

I must share a gentle word of caution to a new breed of recent entrants to the agency business though. Those who primarily function as conduits for cattle call auditions, without a firm grasp of appropriate rates, and usage negotiations, or who engage in the practice of double dipping inflated commissions, may find themselves at a disadvantage.

Fortunately, from where I sit, is a quality seat on the bench for quite some time.

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