Revised: September 2021
How our tastes have changed and why we seem to prefer regional accents more now
The very first BBC radio broadcast in 1922 set the tone – a voice that dominated the airwaves for decades. The linguists call it received pronunciation, or RP – that’s the Queen’s or ‘standard’ English to everyone else. It was a dialect that became synonymous with radio and television, but RP has been in terminal decline and we seem to have fallen in love with accents from all UK regions, but why?
The ‘plumby’ English accent immortalised by Harry Enfield and Paul Whitehouse’s characters Mr. Grayson and Mr. Cholmondley-Warner is seen by most as a quaint reminder of the past. Bizarrely some might say in fact that received pronunciation has become so rare and unfashionable that it’s endangered of extinction.
So, why the shift? How did regional accents become the norm?
As TV and radio exploded into all our living rooms in the 1960s we fell in love with light entertainment, celebrity and soaps like Coronation Street which brought regional accents, for the first time, into our homes.
Just as the BBC gave us RP in the early days, more recently it’s been leading the way in increasing the range and diversity of accents from the West Country burr to the North-East brogue – once you listen out for it you can’t unhear it, trust me!
Is it purely about equal opportunities, or do people prefer UK regional accents?
A study, commissioned by the Central Office of Information (COI), the agency that controls the government’s annual £400m advertising budget, found responses to radio and TV commercials vary widely in different parts of the UK depending on the accent they are recorded in.
Now more than ever, advertisers are aware of the different connotations that come with certain accents. The Mancunian accent gives a warm and welcoming vibe, whereas those from Yorkshire are seen as wise and trustworthy.
So, with different emotions attached to different accents, it’s no surprise that we’re hearing more of a range depending on what is being sold or communicated.
For example, residents of some regions, including Tyneside and Manchester, prefer to listen to government warnings about the dangers of drink driving or smoking cigarettes when they feature voice actors speaking in the local vernacular.
Others, including those who live in the West Midlands and Bristol are, according to the CIO survey, more likely to sit up and take notice when they are made using ‘received pronunciation’.
Advertisements which encourage the public to comply with deadlines, including filling in tax returns, ‘need to impart trust and authority’ the COI said, and are more effective when a Home Counties accent is used. Local accents proved more persuasive in campaigns which include credible real-life experiences to try to change people’s behaviour, perhaps to prevent drink driving or encourage homeowners to fix faulty smoke alarms.
This ‘don’t drink & drive’ campaign uses a range of regional accent in a bid to demand attention from the audience.
The increased demand for diversity is exciting for regional accent actors
Broadcasters and advertisers recognise, more than ever before, the value of communicating with their audience with regional, working class or non-RP accents.
It’s not only the advertising industry that benefits from using different accents and dialects; the Geordie accent for example is associated with genuineness, warmth and understanding which are qualities required for customer service or introducing new products and services.
The prevalence of regional accents across Britain is also engaging new audiences in art forms that may have previously been perceived to be for the middle classes. Lenny Henry’s broad Brummie playing Othello is a great example of this.
How can an accent help your business? Get in touch with us today and let us know what you want to say and we can advise on the best voice for your brand. We have an extensive roster of professional voice actors, featuring talent from all over the UK (and the world!). Whatever your voiceover needs, we’ll no doubt be able to help you.
If you are a voice actor, or budding voice actor, then revel in your accent, its intricacies and idioms- and be sure you keep your mother tongue alive. Find our more about our voice over workshop and how we can work together.