Tone of voice in advertising refers to the intentional use of images, lighting, sound and written copy to create a specific tone or setting for an advertisement. This expression is most often used to describe the impact of creative copy in broadcast media and print ads.


In the same way that a person's body language and vocal tone impact a message, an advertiser's use of various background elements and words can affect the interpretation of an advertisement. Ineffective or off-target tones in advertisements can lead to failure in terms of audience impact and the persuasiveness of the ad. Setting the right tone conveys part of the brand meaning in your ads. Getting the viewer, listener or reader hooked to your message is key to persuasion.


Each ad has its own unique tone of voice, but a number of common, general tones can be identified. Upbeat, energetic, light-hearted, wholesome, kind, helpful, dark, dreary, sad and scary are just some of the tones projected in ads. If you promote your brand as entertainment for people who love excitement or adventure, an upbeat tone makes sense. If you want to scare people into buying a certain type of insurance, an ominous, or fear-inducing tone makes sense.


In television ads, you have multiple ways to establish tone. The setting of the story, such as in nature or in a bedroom, is important. The background music and pace of the dialogue are also impacting. The mood or attitude projected by characters has an effect. In radio, you don't have the visual component, so the impact of the music, sound and copy is even greater. The stronger the sensory appeal in these tools, the greater the effect the tone has on the audience's interpretation.


In print media, such as newspaper and magazines, tone is established through a balance of written copy and visual imagery. The psychology of color comes into play more. For instance, red colors tend to create energy whereas pink or blue are more mellow. Dark colors, like black, can contribute to a scary or ominous tone. The expressions of people or illustrated characters in print ads have effects as well. Copy contributes to the tone by providing specific details on the benefits of the brand, but the way that the words are strung together can create tone, too. The ultimate perception of the audience is formed by absorbing everything together.