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British vs American voice over - big ben statue of liberty
British vs American voice over - big ben statue of liberty
Alex Mcomie 107x107
Feb 9, 2024

When to Use a British vs American Voice Over

What makes an ad truly memorable?

You need multiple elements including a compelling story, catchy jingle, and genuine connection with the audience.

The voice actor you choose to narrate your commercial can significantly change how the ad is perceived by viewers.

Two of the most popular accents used for commercial spots are British and American English.

Both of these accents can be used to great effect, and each has its own advantages and disadvantages.

In this guide, we’ll take a look at each accent and help you decide which one is best for your ad.

Ready to create a winning commercial that your audience will love? Then keep reading!

 

Using an American Voice

British vs American voice over - teens with american flag

If you’re creating a commercial for an American audience, your first choice might be to use an American accent.

This is the most intuitive option, but you should think through the pros and cons before making a final decision.

Advantages of Using an American Voice

As with any other country, Americans will feel the most familiarity with an American voice.

But this doesn’t stop at the level of nationality — there are also substantial differences between regional accents within the United States.

For instance, if you’re running an ad in Texas, using a voice actor with a southern accent may help you create a stronger bond with your audience.

However, you don’t have to use regional accents.

The neutral American accent is defined by its lack of regional features.

In the commercial below, James G. offers a touch of luxury and sophistication while still sounding familiar to most Americans.

A British voice might sound more “classy,” but it could also come across as out of touch or not relatable to the average viewer.

A General American accent can give your ad broad appeal and is therefore a very safe option.

Its lack of regional features and socioeconomic markers means it won’t alienate any listeners.

Disadvantages of Using an American Voice

Using a regional American accent can limit the ad’s usage.

Accents are perceived differently by people with different accents.

For instance, to non-southern Americans, a southern accent may sound uneducated.

A Neutral American accent’s lack of socioeconomic markers also means that it won’t evoke an air of sophistication.

Most commercials in the United States feature an American voice.

This means that using one won’t help your commercial stand out from the crowd.

Whether this is a problem for you or not depends on your product/service and the rest of your commercial.

 

Using a British Voice

British vs American voice over - great britain flag

As with American accents, there is a whole range of British accents.

Everything from Cockney to Newcastle, Scottish to Northern Irish, count as British.

Yet there’s one British accent that has a great deal of representation in American ads: received pronunciation, or RP.

RP is also known as the Queen’s English and is considered the standard for British English.

So, when should you use this accent?

Advantages of Using a British Voice

RP has one distinct advantage over an American voice: it’s very classy.

If you want to create an air of sophistication, nothing can beat sounding like the world’s most famous monarch.

British accents are often used for advertising luxury goods — the Mercedes-Benz commercial below is a perfect example.

The narrator helps associate the brand with elegance and luxury in the mind of the viewer.

It’s an aspirational accent.

Needless to say, you won’t see many commercials like this with a southern accent.

Every accent comes with its own unique associations — both positive and negative.

It may be an unfair bias, but you can’t control the way audiences will perceive different accents and voices.

Aside from luxury car commercials, British accents are also often used for villains in American films because Americans perceive them as competent, educated, and intelligent.

This means that they’re also perfect for PSAs.

When advertising British brands abroad, using a British voice is also a great idea.

It can lend a company a level of exoticism that they wouldn’t get with an American voice.

Disadvantages of Using a British Voice

British voices’ sophisticated air is a double-edged sword to American listeners.

The upper-class sound of Received Pronunciation can mean that it sounds condescending rather than down-to-earth.

If you want to use an accent that sounds like your average viewer, British sophistication may do more harm than good.

The lack of familiarity is another problem to consider.

While Americans can understand what British speakers are saying, most won’t know many people with this kind of accent.

If you’re hoping to cultivate a familial or intimate atmosphere, a British accent could be the wrong choice.

 

The Middle Ground: A Transatlantic Accent

There is another alternative to both the British accent and the American accent.

This is the Transatlantic voice, also referred to as “Mid-Atlantic” or “International English“.

The Transatlantic accent mixes British and American phonology, resulting in an accent that isn’t distinctly one or the other.

You’re probably most familiar with this accent from classic films. Famous actors with Transatlantic voices include:

Back in the day, this accent allowed American actors to be perceived as being cultured and well-traveled.

This remains today: using a Transatlantic accent can give your product an air of sophistication and culture, without alienating audiences on either side of the Atlantic.

The Transatlantic accent is also very easily understood by non-native speakers.

This means that if you want to advertise your products in areas with a lot of non-native speakers, this accent may be your best bet.

Similarly, if you want to bring back the golden age of cinema or create a sense of nostalgia, this accent will be very useful.

Of course, the Transatlantic accent is no longer used in everyday conversation, so it may be a bit jarring in some contexts.

You’ll have to determine whether it makes sense for the particular project you’re working on.

 

Finding the Right Voice for Your Commercial

A voice actor’s accent may sound like a relative afterthought, but it’s actually a vital consideration when developing a commercial (or any other content).

You don’t have to decide on a specific accent to look for, but you should at least have an idea of the tone and vocal quality that you want to see in the final product.

Whether you want to use an American voice, a British voice, or a Transatlantic voice, you’ll find the perfect talent at Voice Crafters!

We have a huge selection of pre-screened, professional voice actors from all around the globe.

Use our voice talent search page to find the right voice actor for your project!

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