Should you go with a male or female voiceover?


You have the idea, you have the script, and you’re ready to add the perfect voice over — but which gender should you choose? Ultimately, deciding between a male or female voice over can alter your message’s clarity, consistency, and effectiveness.

So which should you pick? Let’s go back to first grade and match the boys against the girls. We’ll break down the research and talk to the experts so you can be sure you’re choosing the right one for your next Voice123 project.

Let’s look at the research

A 2010 study from AdWeek 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 a huge 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: Is it congruent?

Who does your audience consist of? Mostly female? Mostly male?

In the same study, 28% of respondents felt that a male voice was “more likely to sell me a car” compared to just 7% who chose a woman’s voice. 23% also said that a guy’s voice was “more likely to sell me a computer” compared to just 7% who picked a female.

But it makes sense: men are typically more interested in gadgets, electronics, and cars than females. If you’re selling male-dominated like products like sports nutrition, hardware tools, or briefcases, a male voice generally fits the message, the brand, and the listeners. A woman’s voice, however, would match things like cosmetics, fashion, and feminine hygiene products.

(Hmm, what would it sound like if a guy tried to sell lipstick?)

What do the experts say?

“Men’s voices are associated with neutrality, with authoritative, factual information,” explains Arthur Chu, a Cleveland-based artist who’s done voice over work for brands like Safeway and Intel. “The voiceover you want for some kind of authoritative instructional video, or something asserting dry historical fact, is going to be that baritone, somewhat monotone, slightly stern voice.”

What about with women’s voices?

“Because females tend to be the more nurturing gender by nature, their voices are often perceived as a helper, more compassionate, understanding, and non-threatening,” says Debbie Grattan, a veteran voice over artist for brands like Apple, Samsung, and Wal-Mart. “This can be important in instructional videos, (sense of patience and compassion in teaching a new skill), corporate/web narration, as well as commercial spots (conveying a less aggressive, more persuasive approach.)”

Sometimes, however, the gender of voice overs is simply tradition. “One of the major glass ceilings in the VO world is those great big authoritative Don LaFontaine voice overs where people still can’t imagine a woman doing them, even though the few women who’ve broken into that niche, like Linda Hunt, have been extremely successful at it,” Chu says.

But does this mean you need to stick with tradition? Not necessarily. “There are trends for women to voice many non-traditional or gender neutral products and services as well,” says Grattan. “For example, a female voice will often tug at a sympathetic chord in a commercial or video for a hospital. We hear female voices for life insurance, investments, and banking, as well as real estate and automotive… even in male dominated fields (i.e. US Military, automation/line production, engineering, etc.) a female voice may be chosen to provide a change of pace for the listening audience.”

Male or Female: Conclusion

Ultimately, focus on your target demographic and stay congruent with your product or message. Once you choose your gender, take your advertisement to the next level with the exact steps to create an online radio ad that grab attention and convert. Here are some examples:

If you’re selling a new sports car, then choose a male voice.

If you’re selling a cute doll or toy, then choose a female voice.

If you’re creating an explainer video for a new technology company, then choose a male voice.

If you’re creating a scientific television show, then choose a male voice.

If you’re creating a promotional video for health spa, then choose a female voice.

If you’re creating an ad for jewelers, then choose a female voice.

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  • Mustvid

    Interesting. I agree with Rosetwist “feminist” comments. Male or female makes no difference to me if you are selling a product. In fact, I found the audio examples to be cliché, very radio DJ sounding. As a result, I wouldn’t distinguish male from female nor products. Ultimately, I believe people are drawn to sincerity, so male or female makes no difference as long as it sounds sincere.

  • Rosetwist

    Please note this is from a feminist. That said, please also note the ‘research’ (and I use that term ever so loosely) upon which this OPINION was published is now over six years old. Back then research methodology was even less likely than now to have proper controls for gender, age, income, etc. and was more likely to consist of info gathered from whomever they, the (cough) researchers, could find to ‘study’. The samples can also easily be manipulated/skewed to overtly or subliminally alter perceived positives and negatives to fit study bias. This is where the feminism comes in. While yes, obviously, I prefer equal opportunities and pay for women I also favor equal opportunity for auditory pleasure. For most straight women I know a warm and cultured male British voice like that of the sublime Tom Hiddleston is auditory perfection. If that voice narrates I will stay awake and listen. If that voice sells I will do anything in my power to buy (whether I need that new car or not). Variations on British are acceptable, such as Euro-Australian, refined North African and those whose first language is not British English (which includes, for me, all of Great Britain and Scotland) but who have learned the Queen’s English as a non primary language. I have little doubt that I represent a great many ‘target’ women in the US and around the actual English speaking world.

  • David Welsman

    I am creating a voice over to sell childrens birthday party magic shows for a promo video- the bulk of the customers are mothers I am thinking a female voice would go well- trying to figure a younger or older adults unless you have another idea. what do you think about this market?

    • Rosetwist

      Sorry I saw this so late. I will share this tidbit at any rate. So much depends on your target audience. In this case I certainly agree with your choice of a female voice; sweet, young and energetic. For wealthier clientele (and honestly not to beat to shreds a single drum) a British accent, bringing to mind the upscale British ‘nanny’/au pair, is highly recommended for that audience. Sadly, it may say “too expensive” to others, but you can work around that. Hope it went well! Best wishes.