Voice Over Trends for 2021
When COVID-19 hit and the world went into lockdown, many traditional types of voice over work also stopped as businesses and organisations shut down temporarily. Planned commercials, explainer videos and narration jobs were axed as companies waited to see how long the pandemic would last. A voice artist friend was about to do a car commercial invoking the dream of the open road when we went into lockdown - needless to say , the job never happened! But other areas of voice over expanded pretty much immediately, such as COVID-19 messages, H&S videos and company telephone messages announcing the office would be closed! Whilst this provided much needed work for voice artists in the short term, other areas of voice work started to increase during the year.
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Areas of Growth
People in lockdown began to listen to more audiobooks and sales surged by 42% in the first half of 2020. Why are audiobooks becoming big business? With book shops closing people turned to digital stories. Wellness content also increased dramatically, as did children’s books to soothe and occupy young minds. And this upsurge in audiobooks looks to increase in 2021 meaning voice actors will be in demand.
Even before the pandemic, eLearning was growing at a steady rate, but now, the closure of many businesses and educational institutions has led to an explosive growth as more and more organisations are investing in virtual learning experiences for their employees and students. People are becoming used to being online and no more so than with e-Learning. The global corporate E-learning market size was valued at $64.4 Billion in 2019 and is expected to grow 9.16% by 2025, and the academic Elearning market size was similarly valued at $103.8 Billion in 2019 and is expected to grow 11.23% by 2025. That’s a lot of work for instructional designers as well as voice over artists!
And demo or product videos remained the most popular video type for investment in 2020 from 13% in 2019 to 46% in 2020 of companies making over 51 videos each year. This represents a 254% increase year-over-year. If we finally get the virus under control, I predict there will be a big growth in areas such as commercials and explainer videos as companies get back on their feet and gain some certainty over their future.
Customised advertising also known as personalised advertising refers to the capability of showing a customised ad to each target audience you are pursuing. As customers perceive personalisation as attractive and engaging – but they actively dislike being exposed to generic adverts – this is something that businesses are expected to take advantage of in 2021.
Whether the advert is location based, weather based or a specific date and time, all the data points known about the user, their environment and the campaign are combined to influence the ad they hear. Here are some examples of how customised advertising is already being used created by A Million Ads. This will provide voice artists with bigger jobs as each of the variables will have to be voiced. Imagine having to record every hour in the day or every town in the country as part of a commercial script?
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Another example of ad personalisation is the increasing usage of one-to-one videos. These are personalised video messages sent by brands and businesses to their customers instead of using the old-fashioned cold-calls and emails. Whilst these grew from 7% in 2019 to 40% in 2020, representing a 471% increase (and they look to continue increasing in 2021), I suspect that it will only be the larger companies who will engage a professional voice actor for this type of work.
With website traffic increasing by 47% because of COVID-19, video content will be king more than ever in 2021 particularly in the use of video on Instagram, Facebook ads and YouTube. And whilst many of the predictions say live, personal stories will become more popular, there will also be a demand for longer form videos.
A study by Twentythree.net found that videos longer than 15 minutes account for 50 percent of all video engagement, but only 8 percent of content. If companies want to maintain customer engagement for that length of time, they will need a professional voice over artist – that’s our skill!
And super short ads are rising in popularity too, Marketers are already designing video ads to finish playing before the “skip” option pops up on Youtube, ensuring that all the content is seen. Its a professional voice artist who will be able to get a message across in a few words.
The Rise of AI
Anyone needing a voice over for their project will have probably come across adverts for “instant access voices” or TTS (text to speech) where they claim these voices are virtually indistinguishable from human voices. And many voice over actors will have had requests or seen posts for for TTS jobs asking them to record hundreds of sentences in a huge range of accents.
In addition to standard TTS voices, Amazon Polly, for example is offering Neural Text-to-Speech (NTTS) voices that deliver advanced improvements in speech quality through a new machine learning approach. They’ve developed two speaking styles that allow you to better match the delivery style of the speaker to the application: a newscaster reading style that is tailored to news narration use cases, and a conversational speaking style that is ideal for two-way communication like telephony applications.
But regardless of the claims made by the TTS companies, these voices do not yet perfectly mimic a human voice, whose lifetime of experiences brings empathy, excitement or warmth to a script. That’s why after all, companies work with professional voice actors who can bring that extra authenticity to a script. The Artificial Intelligent voice will get much better and for many businesses on lower budgets, the quality offered by AI will be good enough.
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The areas where I suspect we will see the AI voice become more popular, and relatively quickly, will be explainer videos, telephone messaging and of course IVR (interactive voice response). Another area is audiobooks where the production of TTS-enabled books will be much cheaper and quicker that those which have been narrated by a voiceover artist. Whilst novels and memoirs will, for the foreseeable future, have a real person narrating them, I think it will be in the area of education we will see this start to happen first, whether its children learning to read and need help with their vocabulary or students having a personal AI tutor. The introduction of Artificial Intelligence instructors can help in the creation of highly customized training paths through the use of data analysis. Students can have personalized tutors helping them in their online training. These teachers will be available 24/7 and easily accessible on any device. With the integration of Artificial Intelligence, there will be smoother interaction between students and AI teachers for an overall improved online training experience.
And as I mentioned above, it’s an exciting time for advertisers – offering more opportunities than ever to have ever-specific targeted conversations with potential and existing customers by utilising relevant and bespoke content through the use of AI.
However, cheap sounding AI voice-overs will create the inevitable desire for an authentic human voice, so I suspect us voice artists will still have a job in the future!
Whatever your predictions are for the voice over industry in the coming years, it certainly will be one of change. The key for voice over artists will be to stay ahead of the game by honing their skills to deliver a top notch performance every time.
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