Male or Female Voiceover: What Gender Should I Use?

This is an age-old media related question and there are many answers.


Male or Female: What Does the Research Say?

A 2010 study from Ad Week Media/Harris Poll surveyed 2194 American adults to determine how consumers responded to male versus female voices in advertisements. Here’s what they learned:

In terms of forcefulness, 48% of the respondents said that males sounded more forceful while 49% of those surveyed said that gender made no difference.
In terms of being more soothing, 46% of respondents said that females sounded more soothing while another 46% said that gender made no difference.
In terms of persuasion, however, the results were split. 19% felt a female voice was more persuasive while 18% believed a male voice was more persuasive. Yet, 64% said gender made no difference.
Thus, depending on your goal, choosing the gender can make an enormous difference. For example, if you’re creating a forceful message, 49% don’t care about gender, but 48% do care; thus, you’ll satisfy 98% of consumers by choosing a male voice. If you want a soothing voice over, however, you’ll satisfy 92% of people by going with a female voice.


Male or Female Talents: Are Virtual Assistants Gender Biased?

Why does Apple’s iPhone assistant Siri, Amazon’s Alexa and Google’s Home voice assistants all use a female gender in the US?
Brandon Griggs, CNN says:

“The fuss over Siri’s sex also raises a larger question: From voice-mail systems to GPS devices to Siri and beyond, why are so many computerized voices female?”

One answer may lie in biology. Scientific studies have shown that people generally find women’s voices more pleasing than men’s.

“It’s much easier to find a female voice that everyone likes than a male voice that everyone likes,” said Stanford University Professor Clifford Nass, author of “The Man Who Lied to His Laptop: What Machines Teach Us About Human Relationships.” “It’s a well-established phenomenon that the human brain is developed to like female voices.”

An Apple spokeswoman declined to comment on why the company gave Siri a female voice in the U.S. Nor would she say why Siri originally spoke like a man in the UK, where iPhone owners swarmed online forums to request a female voice instead.

This may explain why in almost all GPS navigation systems on the market, the default voice is female. One notable exception has been Germany, where BMW was forced to recall a female-voiced navigation system on its 5 Series cars in the late 1990s after being flooded with calls from German men saying they refused to take directions from a woman.
“Cultural stereotypes run deep,” said Nass, who details the BMW episode in his book.


Male or Female Voice Talents? – Our Conclusion:

    It really does depend on your target audience and the demographics as far as keeping your product, story or brand on-message. Traditionally, in English speaking countries the rule of thumb is to use male voices for the more forceful and hard selling communication projects for automotive, science and technology sectors and the female gender for the soothing/caring voice for eLearning, health and well-being campaigns. However, if a foreign language adaption VO is required, take into consideration gender choice at the casting stage to ensure cultural idiosyncrasies are considered in a sensitive manner to ensure the delivery is culturally correct for the target audience.


    Our advice to clients is to get the casting selection options right. Where possible record a short demo for your project with your selected talent to share with your production team or client to make sure the voice works for your creative vision before the final recording.  If you are not sure the demo works, re-cast and re-record another scratch demo.  This is often a free service with VO agencies.


    We also have clients who break all the gender rules and say that it really doesn’t matter if you use a male or female if the voiceover resonates with your audience and delivers auditory perfection.


    We personally believe that writers not only need to write scripts that are on-message, but should also produce detailed directions and creative guidance for our voice talents to help bring their stories to life.  Writers should also craft scripts which are gender specific.
    Voiceover.Cafe regularly cast multilingual talents for a lot of top ad agencies in London and New York and we always request a rough VO guide track in English from the creative directors to help set the style, tone, pace and gravitas required. Guide tracks greatly help our talents and VO directors during the recording process, especially when recording multilingual adaption versions.


    If you listen closely to all TV ads and voiceover recordings you get exposed to during the next couple of days, you will start to get an understanding of what subliminal influences affect your thought processes and how both male and female vocal performance enhances the semiotics of  brand messaging.


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