Finding Your Voiceover Tone: Legal Commercials

September 23, 2022 by Kathy Grable

This article is the second in a three-part series by voiceover coach Kathy Grable on adjusting your vocal tones for different types and genres of copy. See the first article on medical commercials HERE and watch for the third installments in the coming weeks!

Not all voice-over copy is created equal.  With that in mind, the type of copy I’m getting is more diverse that ever. This month we’ll focus on… legal copy.  It’s a pretty broad field – everything from the super fast disclaimers at the end of pharma ads, all the way to reading more legalese-type copy for websites and manuals.

In the age of instant media, more and more of us respond better to pictures and words than just something written in dry legalese. Companies large and small have legal teams pouring over the printed word. If it’s written, they have to make sure their company can stand by that. It’s our job, as voiceover pros, to bring these words to life.

So what do you do to prepare for this?  First off, always remember that at the end of the day, you’re a storyteller. Most of us have natural inclinations and the majority of you reading this will assume “legal copy is dry and boring.”  And if you are bored and not engaged, it will sound that way.  The attitude of the reader comes through in the first sentence or two, and I can tell you – without exception – it’s a turnoff.  It sounds as if someone’s just going through the motions and doesn’t care about what they’re saying. It’s easy to fake a smile on camera, or a caring gesture, but truth can be heard in the voice, even when people are not aware of why they’re turned off.

Read it with energy and conviction like you’re telling a story! And remember your audience choice. Use inflection as you would with any copy to emphasize a phrase, word, or subject matter. Dive into it like it was a Mamet play! The director or producer can always tone you down. “Best foot forward” will win you the job most times and also have them hire you back again and again.

The legal or legal disclaimer: The legal at the end of commercial copy is usually a quick disclaimer, 10-12 seconds or less. The voiceover artists that do this are for the most part fast talkers. Remember no improv or buttons here. Lawyers have looked over everything and finalized it so the tone of this is “Just the facts.”  Bottom line: be engaged with the text whether it’s a matter of fact piece or a cerebral dissertation because that’s your job.  And if you can bring life to something that’s dry, imagine what you can do with some lively, witty copy!

Kathy Grable

Kathy Grable is an L.A. voice-over prototype with a warmth and sincerity that reminds listeners of a close friend. You’ve heard her in animated shows like Tom & Jerry, Rocket Power, and Futurama and commercials for Pepsi, Disney, Dunkin’ Donuts, Burger King, and as the Baskin-Robbins “Talking Spoon.” Kathy was also the voice double for Nicole Kidman in the hit film Batman Forever. On-camera, she’s been seen in Mike & Molly, Harry’s Law, Last Man Standing, and The Wedding Band on TBS. She’s a sought-after V/O coach, director, and demo producer. When not performing, Kathy co-owns and operates a company that distributes e-books, comics, audio dramas, and her own podcast, In My Voice, with guests from all aspects of the voiceover world. Find it on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts and Spotify, or go to https://anchor.fm/kathy-grable0 for all the episodes.

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