Don’t Hate Me Because I write Voice Over Copy: Testimonials vs VO in Video Marketing

“I don’t like VO,” says ArcMedia Creative Director Rodrigo De Medeiros. “You may quote me on that.”
Hmmm. Interesting perspective.
As a writer who makes part of her living writing scripted voice-over, this statement makes me bite my nails and check how much cash I have in my emergency jar. It also makes me ask, through a nervous smile, for further clarification.

As it turns out, Rodrigo has some pretty solid arguments for using testimonials as opposed to scripted voice-over in marketing. And considering his decades of experience in the creative professional world, including having been on both sides of the camera, I’m all ears.

VO IS OVERUSED
“The main reason I don’t care for VO is that it is vastly overused in advertising,” says Rodrigo. “People unconsciously shut down their belief in any statements made in a VO. I mean, it’s like saying, ‘hey, listen to this, it has all of the perfect marketing words’.”
I’m about to push back, argue, “But, hey, MY scripts are good!”
He beats me to the punch:

NO MATTER WHAT, VO SOUNDS SCRIPTED
“Even if the script is really good, it sounds scripted because it IS scripted.” Rodrigo points out the loss of true connection between the story being told and the person telling it that takes place when a script is used in marketing. “I think it’s very hard to have an actor who is not personally connected to a concept or story give the correct delivery. The script ends up making them guarded.”

WITH VO, THERE IS A LOSS OF SPONTANEITY
“I aim for spontaneity. It’s how I like to roll,” Rodrigo continues. “When people come over-prepared, it just sounds artificial. That preparedness is inherent with a script because they are just doing their job, you know, but it can end up just sounding phony.”
Okay, fine. But what’s so great about someone just TALKING? Don’t they ramble? What if they are uncomfortable, won’t that make the viewer or listener uncomfortable?

HERE’S WHY TESTIMONIALS ARE BETTER
“Look, let me give an example of why spontaneity works so well.”
In February of 2018, Rodrigo and ArcMedia camera operator Steven Heller had been tasked with an insanely ambitious photo and video shoot of nine Microsoft employees. The idea was to take two group photos, then individual photos, then interview each employee on their thoughts on connecting Black history to their future at Microsoft. They had ONE DAY to accomplish this. You can read all about their intricate process here.
“We had such a short time with these employees, but it really worked in our favor,” Rodrigo says. “We learned about them on the fly. All I started out with was a list of names, I had no idea about them personally. It was the element of surprise working for us. It’s fresh.”
Aside from helping with the genuine feel of the audio and the message, Rodrigo said it helped with the images he captured on film.

“It might freak people out sometimes, but I see that spontaneity as an advantage. I had a personal interest in learning about these people so I could talk with them, catching the best expressions while I was photographing them. Sure, everyone is different. Some are right away super spontaneous, others took some time to warm up – but we got some amazing content because the people were fascinating. That was brilliant. That was my favorite part of the job.”
He continues, “Every time you demonstrate that you are genuinely interested it’s not just an interview. If our mission is to produce inspiring, uplifting and motivating content, it has to be genuine. People can tell when it’s forced. With a testimonial, that is genuine storytelling that has a real human connection.”
And with that, I’m sold on the concept. As long as he lets me help with the paper edit of the testimonials.

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