That Lovely, Shrill Screech

Another reason it seemed weird that Mike Tyson was in that short-lived Fox Sports Net ad: He just doesn’t have a commer cial-friendly voice.

Or does he? A glance at the chart shown here, which excerpts the results of a 2001 survey by Wake Forest’s Center for Voice Disorders, con firms that Tyson’s girlie-speak deserves ridicule and derision, at least from the poll’s 3,000 respondents. And yet a closer look reveals a counter intuitive fact: The majority of folks in the “worst” column have done ads (for Pizza Hut, Subway, Glad, etc.); most of those in the “best” column haven’t.

Aside from the fact that the folks on the left cost more to hire, there may be something to these nontraditional voices. “When you use a perfect, smooth announcer’s voice, people tune out. Imperfect voices get them to lean in,” says Sam Pond, founder of radio ad company Pond and still the only man to win Best of Show at The One Show for a radio ad (a Prego Restaurants spot out of Hoff man/Lewis in 1994). Instead of “best” and “worst,” Pond says, these lists could be labeled “safest” and “most challenging.”

That is, if they weren’t flawed to begin with. “Katie Couric’s got a terrible voice,” Pond says. “And it’s only when Barbra Streisand sings that her voice is good.”