Claire Beale on Advertising: Boyle's burr beats the tedious Fry

When Susan Boyle appeared on The Oprah Winfrey Show in the US last week, she was accompanied by subtitles to decode her Scottish brogue for the American ear.

But when adland gets its hands on Ms Boyle, her burr could prove as attractive as her singing voice. Boyle is not commercial property yet – she can't get her nose into the ad trough until Britain's Got Talent ends its current run. But brands are already lining up to capitalise on her fame and her thick Scottish vowels could prove almost as lucrative as her clear singing voice if a new study into accents in advertising is anything to go by.

It seems strong regional accents used in commercials can have a profound effect on our attitude to brands. Gone are the days when a nice, cut-glass voiceover was all that was required to suggest a brand was prestigious, desirable, reliable. Blame the rise in celebrity culture and the blurring of class structures, blame Cheryl Cole or Ant and Dec, but received pronunciation (RP) – a backbone for authority from the dawn of British broadcasting – is no longer the accent of choice for commercials.

It turns out that a chatty local lilt can draw us in and win us over. Just to make sure, the Central Office of Information – the body that handles all government advertising and consequently one of Britain's most prolific advertisers – has commissioned a study to see how advertising effectiveness can be improved by using different regional twangs. Do Scottish accents such as Boyle's infer prudence? Can they make us more likely to trust financial institutions? Does a Somerset cadence make a brand seem more earthy and natural? Does a Mancunian twang confer street cred? In ad voiceovers, it really is as crude as that.

Like it or not, regional accents conjure common stereotypes, and when you have only 30 seconds of airtime to sell a story, stereotypes are rather useful. So standard southern pronunciation can lend a brand message a cerebral, authoritative tone. But if you want to add humour or friendliness to your script, look north, because people up there are nicer and much more fun.

Local timbres are particularly powerful tools when advertisers want to convey credible, real-life experiences. Cue those fake-real people with comfy, ordinary voices seeking the cheapest car insurance. People like us. On the other hand, ads telling us to fill in our tax return or stay within the speed limits are better off invoking accents of authority, using a modern version of RP that's free of regional stereotyping.

All this is delicate territory for a government-funded organisation such as the COI. God forbid if the study should find Brummie accents are considered ugly and their owners stupid, or that Liverpudlians conjure images of tracksuited scallies; the COI could end up offending half the country. But it did find that how we respond to different accents depends very much upon our own. So people in Manchester and Tyneside are more positive about hearing their own accents in ads than people in the West Midlands and Bristol, who are rather turned off by voices like their own. Apparently we are more likely to like our own accents if we believe the rest of the country thinks they are cool too.

None of this explains the tedious inevitability of Stephen Fry cropping up in every ad break. Regional accents may have real-people appeal but nothing beats a celeb to get us engaged. As the nation's favourite renaissance man, Fry is an obvious choice for advertisers hoping to win our affection: his instantly recognisable tones immediately suggest wit, intelligence, sensitivity, sense – qualities which (too many) brands are eager to piggyback.

Despite endorsing everything from tea to insurance, his promiscuity does not seem to have diminished his credibility. And the fact he speaks so nicely hasn't done his voiceover career any harm at all.

Best in show: Coca-Cola (Mother)

This week's Best in Show is called "Yeah Yeah Yeah, La La La". Possibly that's all I need to say to convey the wondrously weird commercial that Coca-Cola and its agency Mother are about to unleash, but I will try to elaborate. A strange man with long hair pushes a big box to the top of a big hill and begins to set up the musical instrument inside. It is a bit like a piano, except that the music is made by squirting Coke into the mouths of funny, furry, Gremlin-like creatures that live in the instrument.

Beautiful young people hear the music and they run up the hillside dancing and drinking Coke. It is gloriously silly and it is all about Coke making people happy. Watch the ad and smile.

A model of a Neanderthal man on display at the National Museum of Prehistory in Dordogne, France
Richard Dawkins dedicated his book 'The Greatest Show on Earth' to Josh Timonen
newsThat's Richard Dawkins on babies with Down Syndrome
Arts and Entertainment
Eye of the beholder? 'Concrete lasagne' Preston bus station
architectureWhich monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Dinosaurs Unleashed at the Eden Project
Arts and Entertainment
Life and Style
This month marks the 20th anniversary of the first online sale
techDespite a host of other online auction sites and fierce competition from Amazon, eBay is still the most popular e-commerce site in the UK
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Legal Recruitment Consultant

Highly Competitive Salary + Commission: Austen Lloyd: BRISTOL BASED - DEALING ...

Digital Project Manager / Web Project Manager

£45-50k (DOE) + Bonus & Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced ...

Account Manager

£30 - 35k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking an Account Manager to join ...

Social Advertising Manager / Social Media Manager

£Excellent + Benefits: Guru Careers: A Social Advertising Manager / Social Med...

Day In a Page

Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape
eBay's enduring appeal: Online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce retailer

eBay's enduring appeal

The online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce site
Culture Minister Ed Vaizey: ‘lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird’

'Lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird'

Culture Minister Ed Vaizey calls for immediate action to address the problem
Artist Olafur Eliasson's latest large-scale works are inspired by the paintings of JMW Turner

Magic circles: Artist Olafur Eliasson

Eliasson's works will go alongside a new exhibition of JMW Turner at Tate Britain. He tells Jay Merrick why the paintings of his hero are ripe for reinvention
Josephine Dickinson: 'A cochlear implant helped me to discover a new world of sound'

Josephine Dickinson: 'How I discovered a new world of sound'

After going deaf as a child, musician and poet Josephine Dickinson made do with a hearing aid for five decades. Then she had a cochlear implant - and everything changed
Greggs Google fail: Was the bakery's response to its logo mishap a stroke of marketing genius?

Greggs gives lesson in crisis management

After a mishap with their logo, high street staple Greggs went viral this week. But, as Simon Usborne discovers, their social media response was anything but half baked
Matthew McConaughey has been singing the praises of bumbags (shame he doesn't know how to wear one)

Matthew McConaughey sings the praises of bumbags

Shame he doesn't know how to wear one. Harriet Walker explains the dos and don'ts of fanny packs
7 best quadcopters and drones

Flying fun: 7 best quadcopters and drones

From state of the art devices with stabilised cameras to mini gadgets that can soar around the home, we take some flying objects for a spin
Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

The midfielder returned to the Premier League after two years last weekend. The controversial character had much to discuss after his first game back
Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

British No 1 knows his consistency as well as his fitness needs working on as he prepares for the US Open after a ‘very, very up and down’ year
Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

A descent into madness in America's heartlands

David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home