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The voice of authority

Mar 26, 2019
As a society, we thrive off being able to put a face to a name. To finally meet the person you’ve heard so much about, and compare their real appearance to the one you envisioned in your head. But what if we were able to put a voice to a face? Now, we can.

To commemorate the 350th anniversary of one of the greatest artists of all time, ING and JWT Amsterdam teamed up to bring the Dutch Master, Rembrandt, back to life. While they haven’t quite developed technology to actually resurrect the most ambitious artist of the golden age, they’ve done the next best thing. Hailed historically not just as a great artist, but as a teacher too, the organisation decided to celebrate this side of his character by creating The Rembrandt Tutorials – a series of five programs taught, and voiced, by the man himself. 350 years after delivering his last lesson, Rembrandt is teaching again.


The team at ING meticulously studied Rembrandt’s self-portraits to determine his bone structure and the size of his vocal chambers, before designing complex AI systems to recreate the finer aspects of his tone and timbre. The outstanding results offer real insight into what could be achieved when these innovative ideas are perfected – especially when it comes to voice. This campaign inspired to take a look at what exactly makes voice so important in creating authority – and why brands go to such lengths to find the right one. More pressingly, we’re intrigued to find out what this new technology means for the industry.

In the case of The Rembrandt Tutorials, the use of his voice gives a sense of immediacy to his teaching – lifting the campaign from the mundane to the memorable. ING and JWT Amsterdam going to almost unprecedented lengths to give their campaign a sound to be believed in, and they’re not the first company who went to similar lengths to craft the same level of authority through the power of voice.

In the 1970s, countless brands fought to have one man in particular voice their ads – Orson Welles. After becoming a huge name in the world of cinema, Welles embarked on a career as a voiceover artist to fund his film projects. Over the years, he lent his booming vocals to everything from wine to photocopiers and frozen food – with his links to the advertising industry becoming almost as strong as his ties to Hollywood. In the words of the great himself, he ‘lent class and gravitas to products that were otherwise lacking’ – exemplified most in his famous campaign with Findus frozen foods. Much like the unwavering commitment of the ING team to make Rembrandt teach again, Findus were forced to jump through hoops to secure Welles for their ads, even chasing him across Europe for an audition tape – a tape he was famously against recording. Despite the troubled relationship between the two, the finished sound retains unprecedented beauty and long-lasting remembrance thanks to Welles’ distinctive and recognisable tone.


In both cases, the importance of voice – and the lengths brands go to in delivering the desired effect on an audience – is evident. ING and JWT Amsterdam worked tirelessly to create trust and rapport in their tutorials, while Welles perfected a distinctive tone to elevate and increase recognition for his clients. And at PHMG, we understand the significance of this tool all too well. We place immense importance on matching our clients with a voice that flawlessly encapsulates their brand personality – whether they want to create a friendly, conversational tone, or establish a professional, corporate sound that tells their consumers they’re a business to be relied on. By having a single voice behind a brand, customers become familiar with not just that person, but with the total sound of the brand. And when used across multiple platforms, the memorability only increases further.

The legacy Orson Welles established voicing those ads still remains, all these years later. And who knows – with the latest advancements in AI technology, perhaps the chances of him appearing in a commercial on your screen soon are much larger than you’d think.