Can you believe we are already approaching the start of 2022? If it seems like the past ten months have been a bit of a blur to you, you’re not the only one! Now, it’s time to look with clear eyes towards the next year of our careers, and anticipate the shifts and changes that may be coming down the road. For example, how to adapt your demo game for 2022 trends.
Part of my job as a demo producer is to stay on top of trends in all of the genres JMC Demos produces for. It’s not an easy task, but with access to commercial and other broadcast copy months in advance of intended air dates through numerous agents/production companies/ad agencies, and a deep roster of non-broadcast narration clients sending scripts every day, I take pride in being able to create demos not just for what the market wants right this minute, but for what will be trending months down the line.
What changes can we expect in 2022?
Commercial reels will still need to feature the somewhat offbeat and quirky humor that has dominated since the start of the pandemic. If there is a post-pandemic pivot back to sunny and silly, that isn’t showing up in copy yet. Moreover, the Delta variant delayed the expected dominance of powerful reopening reads, and has prolonged the life of somewhat more emotional pieces using warmth and proximity. With so much still in flux, commercial seems fairly status quo at the moment, with a continuing trend towards shorter, impactful pieces. Reads that showcase perseverance and earnest everyday grit are trending, and BIPOC voices will continue to be more prevalent, especially in commercial content that is targeting younger demographics.
Political Commercials are starting to heat up once again after seeing a brief decline in volume after the 2020 election. The initial post-inauguration calm and new-president honeymoon has given way to the vitriol that has become an all-too-unfortunate mainstay of American politics. Though bad news for society, it does mean that the off-season for political commercial VO was shorter than expected, and we are already getting close to election-year numbers once again. 2022 promises to be the most hotly contested mid-term election in recent memory, and both parties are poised to drop unprecedented cash into political ads, and thereby political VO as well. In 2022 you don’t necessarily have to choose a side as a VO, but your demos do. Whether you play for one team or both, current, hard-hitting reels that are geared towards relevant issues and races will win the day. And, sadly, buyers on both the left and the right continue to tell me one thing over and over….”We need to hear that they can go negative.” In 2022, moderate, gentle political demos won’t get you very far.
Documentary & TV Narration is one of the industry’s more static genres when it comes to your demo reels. Trends continue more conversational and believable, but there is still a fairly strong gap between the sounds buyers want for traditional documentaries and those they are looking for when it comes to reality TV and in-show content. Demos in this genre don’t need a massive overhaul, but if you are specifically targeting classic documentaries, or specifically targeting reality TV/more conversational & modern programs, the trend going forward is likely to involve more targeted demos for each.
Promo and TV Affiliate continues to go more conversational, more BIPOC, and younger, though there’s still plenty of work for traditional voices. While traditional network promo remains glamorous, more and more of this work involves streaming content and other new media. As always, the most important thing is that the content on your promo demo is current. Shows that have been off the air for more than a year, or topics that are dated, generally need updating.
Radio Imaging, like promo, is moving younger, more conversational, and more diverse. With numerous formats, however, it remains open to classic sounds as well, especially when paired with unexpectedly current content. A recent trend has been using counter-intuitive voices……older voices over humorous content based around pop culture, etc…. and humor overall remains hot. Radio Imaging can be a tough nut to crack, but once in the door the work can be very steady.
Animation & Gaming reels continue to require more acting chops and fewer funny voices. The trend across both genres is story-based, showing that you can sustain characters and completely inhabit them. Hackneyed stereotypes are out, and authenticity is the watchword. This will only continue in 2022. Video game work in particular is exploding, and with more and more agents of all types sending out castings every day, your reels need to be on point to get their attention.
Corporate Narration has moved away from the hard sell in most cases, and like many other genres is demanding that the voice actor demonstrate more connection with the copy. Corporate and industrials are unlikely to ever trend as young as other genres, but the late-20s/early 30s read is hot, and sincerity is key. One fun trend is the loosening-up of corporate culture to embrace more play in copy, and even an occasional bit of edgy humor. While one has to be careful and stay on-brand, dropping a read with some light shock value on your corporate demo is likely to get you more wins in 2022.
Explainers pioneered the conversational read in many ways during the early part of this century, and as such have been somewhat less subject to change than other genres. In 2022 you’ll see more explainers using live action, as the cliched whiteboard and stickman animation has started to fade. Cartoon and 3D/CGI animation will continue to be in heavy rotation, so explainers are unlikely to lose their frequently playful nature anytime soon.
E-Learning also continues to evolve into less-starchy places. While lots of E-Learning is still very classical in sound and structure, the trend is towards voices that are somewhat more whimsical or cheeky, while still maintaining professionalism. More and more companies are taking chances with edgy content, especially for new hire and onboarding content, and there is also a distinct trend towards shorter modules and more scenario-based, gamified, and role-playing content. More than ever, the E-Learning space will require acting chops in 2022, and your demo will need to reflect that.
Medical Narration has exploded since the start of the pandemic, possibly tripling in volume based on anecdotal evidence. Those who can handle even moderately complex terminology have the benefit of a tremendous supply/demand advantage in this genre. Medical Narration reels are a recent art, and generally include an empathetic read, a more corporate read with some promotional overtones, an educational read, a highly technical read, and a role-playing or gamified read.
Movie Trailer reels continue to demand the same range of classic power reads and newer brighter reads, however the really hot segment of trailer is Video Game Trailer, which has similarities to movie trailer but trends younger and more emotionally involved. Video Game Trailers were one of 2021’s hottest genres, and promise the same for 2022.
OTHER TRENDS worth being aware of include the move to require more individual samples on casting sites, and the continuing emphasis from agents on the need to be competitive in multiple genres.
For sites like Voice123, having short samples of your entire range of reads is becoming more and more important. Your traditional reels are still valuable on these platforms, especially when you are being reviewed by classic industry types from ad agencies and production companies who expect full demos. That said, many younger people who are casting today search online for very specific samples, “Fun and friendly,” “Morgan Freeman,” “Trailer voice,” etc…., and only listen to the samples related to those styles. Most demo producers will be happy to offer you single-spot rates to create fully-produced individual samples, at far less cost than a full demo.
On the other hand, more and more agents are saying during their public appearances that they want multi-tool players. These days, you need to have demos demonstrating proficiency in at least two major genres, preferably three or more, in order to get traction with top agencies. In 2022, a commercial demo by itself is not going to get the job done when seeking representation. Be ready, and don’t come light.
On behalf of myself, A.J. McKay, and the entire JMC Demos team, here’s wishing you a spectacular end to the year and start to the next as you pursue your VO goals!