TIM FANNING MY VIEW
When it comes to accents, it’s time we chose between Cork and California…
One of the cleverest ads on the radio at the moment is an ad for radio advertising. In itself, this may not be the best ad for radio advertising. If radio advertising is so effective, as the ad claims, why not have an ad there for something else? After all, we don’t sit through the ad breaks on TV every night being told how much we can boost our company’s profits by selling an impossible lifestyle to poor consumers who will try to live up to it by buying our products. Actually, there’s a probably a good reason for that…
But back to the clever radio ad, which, like any good idea, is very simple. A man reading out a list of what we (that is, the Irish) like, in every conceivable regional accent – from Darndale to Dalkey, Fermanagh to Fermoy – using the slang we employ in real life. The ad is effective because it gives advertisers a sense of the reach of radio advertising. That there’s a housewife in Dublin tuning in to the radio at the same time as a fisherman in Galway, a hairdresser in Offaly and a builder in Kerry. That you’re connecting with real, living people, as opposed to statistics on a spreadsheet.
It’s a patchwork of different geographies and experiences, from the bustling urban to the sleepy suburban, the hills and the valleys to the coasts and the plains. But it all adds up to a sense of being somehow the same. In short, it’s refreshing to hear so many accents sharing a common denominator. They are natural, unaffected and indisputably Irish.
Why is it, therefore, that these accents are so uncommon in radio advertising? Instead of lilting Cork cadences or the pure rhythms of a Connemara or Donegal accent, our airwaves are polluted with a weird accent that sounds like a chain-smoking south County Dublin model who’s spent too long in Daddy’s duplex in Florida. What is this accent the agencies and advertisers fawn over? Does it have some overpowering allure over those mythical AB consumers and their buckets of cash?
And it’s not just the voiceover artists in ads, this accent has long been a prerequisite for getting a job reading the news, reporting the traffic and presenting the weather, or doing all three, depending on the commercial radio station you work for. We can, of course, blame the pernicious influence of US TV, as any parent of teenage children will be aware. But do we have to teach our newreaders and radio voiceover artists to speak like that? We don’t expect Pat Spillane or Joe Duffy to change their accents to get a job on radio, so why do we expect it from the younger generation?