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Why B&H’s Customer Story Ad Is a Joke
(you can also read the 🇩🇪German translation: Warum die B&H-Customer-Story-Ad ein Witz ist)
B&H Photo Video chose to do a customer story about a pizza maker who uses a camera and her microscope to capture bio-art photography of things like pizza toppings.
They use a joke format for their voiceover ad:
Are jokes a wise choice for ads?
Find out below in my…
Voiceover Ad of the Week 1: B&H Customer Story Steph Mantis (100% real)
Each week I grab my machete, enter the Amazonian Ad Jungle, fight wild beasts with huge teeth and long claws, and (as a byproduct) try to come out alive with another…
Voiceover Ad of the Week!
In this first installment of my weekly series, I found an effective voiceover ad by U.S. electronics retailer B&H.
Video summary for tl;dr people
About B&H Photo Video
B&H Photo Video is an institution in the U.S. when it comes to photography, videography, audio, and tech gear. That’s what I know from my outside perspective as a non-U.S. citizen living in Germany.
They are well-known for their online store (and one retail store in Manhattan), and they’ve been with us since 1973. Yeah, they’re “dinosaurs” in this fast-paced tech world.
German equivalents could be “Conrad Electronic” (founded 1923 in Berlin)–they have a similar “B&H vibe”. Or maybe European tech retail giant “MediaMarktSaturn” (founded 1979 in Ingolstadt); maybe not because they’re probably too big to be compared to B&H.
About Voiceover Ad of the Week
My goal is to break down what made the ad work and teach you the strategies and best practices that you can use to make your own voiceover ads better and become famous in your niche.
I find these voiceover ads on YouTube, but I also accept suggestions from readers who have a fun and punchy voiceover ad they’d like to share.
If you just watched a voiceover ad that made your heart stand still and your eyes grow huge, I wanna see it, too. Forward it to me (
“alexander” followed by an
“at” sign and
“naii” and a dot (
“io”) with a brief message about what you liked about it. If I choose to break down the voiceover ad you sent, I’ll give you a shout-out and link to your site.
Let’s check out the first Voiceover Ad of the Week!
The ad is casual.
The ad is conversational.
The ad is as if you visited a friend, had a chat, and asked a few questions out of curiosity.
It’s super lean-back while soft-selling the B&H offer.
The Ad structure:
- Hook – kick-off
- Story – middle (curious backstory, present, past, future)
- Call to action – end.
🕵️ Ad Walk-through (in 7 parts)
Let’s take a walk through the ad, second by second, and see what we got:
We’ll start with an effective way to kick off an ad.
1: Objection No. 1 handled in the Hook
In the first 2 seconds, B&H wants to make clear the ad is authentic.
The ad starts by addressing the main objection:
Is this ad/customer story real?
They say it is 100% real (and they also say that in the title of the video).
Do we trust B&H saying that?
The ad is fast because money loves speed, and ads are meant to increase sales.
The underlying drums that start rolling in the first millisecond emphasize the importance of speed in this swift question-answer ping-pong.
Now that we have the Objection Number ONE out of the way, we can introduce the protagonist and their story.
But first let me introduce the anatomy of such a story.
Time to find our protagonist and their journey.
2: Introduce the Protagonist and the Unanswered Question
Steph Mantis is an artist, pizza maker, and B&H customer. She’s the protagonist.
And her unanswered question 4 is:
How do I take my photography to the next level?
🧐 Note that the cat is being introduced at
:11, visually not verbally, as a setup for the punch line at the end (
01:33). That’s why the commercial is crafted as a joke.
3: Find a reason:excuse to kick off the story
Journey can begin.
Story time: the curious backstory.
Following a conversational style, the VO asks “innocently”:
VO: Steph, I gotta be honest, I don’t know where to look first.
Is that a microscope?
Steph: Yeah, that’s my, uh, Trinocular Axiolab, and that’s what I use to make bio art.
Steph explains that…
“Bio art is where science and art meet,” and bio art is a thing that makes people curious. It leaves them wanting to know more, because they probably haven’t heard about it.
A curiosity in your ad, after the initial excitement of the beginning of the ad, ensures that the viewer keeps paying attention.
🧐 Note that they also left Steph’s “uh” filler word untouched, which adds to the conversational format.
The backstory section ends with a testimonial from Steph herself (as opposed to the B&H VO saying it):
Steph: When I first went to B&H trying to find a camera for my microscope, I thought it was a little oddball quest. But, (it) turns out they’ve done this before and they knew exactly what I was looking for.
What’s great about working with people at B&H is that they use the gear that they’re selling you.
We learn that B&H can also serve odd requests.
But the way they ended up in this testimonial was (again) a more or less innocent, conversational question by the VO:
VO: So what came first: camera or the microscope?
Steph: So first came the microscope, then the camera, and thankfully, that’s where B&H stepped in.
The takeaway for us:
People working at B&H use the gear they’re selling to you. In other words: they’re the experts, they know what they’re talking about, and you can trust them.
🧐 It’s important to note that the VO narrator is B&H’s go-to voice. 5 You can hear him in “A Brief History of B&H” 6 and “Meet the Expert Staff at B&H” 7 unless they give a voice to fellow creators like “Cameo” funk group member Greg Johnson. 8
4: Ask a question to segue to the present
We know Steph.
We know her backstory.
We know that Steph has a microscope.
And that she likes to take photos with her trinocular.
So let’s connect it to the present and to the future as well.
VO: So what are you looking at now?
Then they make conversation.
Steph herself acts well (read: appropriately funny) when she reveals that the secret of her family’s pizza is cheddar cheese (
🧐 Note that they don’t follow her story chronologically. That’s okay, because you can mix things up. Films do that all the time, 9 and ads can do, too.
5: Another question that leads to the future to…
The drums are rolling.
The fire is rising.
The heat is on.
VO: So what’s next for you, Steph?
Now, before I reveal her answer.
The unanswered question, “Steph Mantis came to B&H to take her photography to the next level”, in the beginning (
:03) was still vague.
But towards the end they clarify the unanswered question, which is smart. Make something vague, make people curious, and then deliver clarity.
So, while we’re seeing a close-up of a red-brown pizza topping through the microscope, Steph says:
Steph: I wanna take this tiny thing that I’ve been looking at and blow it up using projectors. I just have to figure out what equipment I need.
And then they’re adding credibility visually at
1:19, as a pre-Call-to-Action or bridge, by sneaking in…
- ✔ Pizza by Alex (her family’s pizzeria)
- ✔ Photos by Steph
- ✔ Advice by B&H
- ✔ Support by B&H
- ✔ Expertise by B&H
- ✔ Gear by B&H
…which serves as a setup, so the ad can finally…
6: …Finish with a Call-to-Action…
Again, and we’ve seen this in the backstory section (
:40), the customer:creator is the one who prepares the sale or CTA by saying that she wants to talk again (while visually we see a post-it that says, “order projector from B+H”):
Steph: So B&H, you know, we’re gonna, we’re gonna talk again.
VO: Steph, we’re always here when you need us. Be sure to save me a slice.
For your next project, head to the experts at BandH.com.
As you can see, the whole ad is a person-to-person conversation:
- VO talks to Steph:
“Steph, I gotta be honest”
- Steph talks to B&H/VO:
“So B&H, you know, we’re gonna talk again”
Steph talks to B&H as if they were a person. Great!
7: …and Conclude with the Punch Line (it’s a Joke!)
Steph then delivers the punch line with her cat Rascal in her lap:
Steph: Oh yeah, I’ve definitely put him under the microscope.
Cat fur looks crazy.
The ad closes with a customer delivering a punch.
Well, that’s a way to finish an ad. Nice!
So, at least three times we see how B&H gives power aka empowers the type of customer:creator that they’re targeting.
- Handle objections early. Address the #1 objection in the beginning. “This is a real B&H customer story.”
- Tease the outcome. “Steph Mantis came to B&H to take her photography to the next level.”
- Show, don’t tell. Don’t explain how successful a customer has been thanks to you, show how success for them looks like.
- Use your customer’s language and words to capture the product in a way a formula can’t, or let them say it themselves: words out of your customer’s mouth are more valuable than when you say it yourself. (see point 3)
- Don’t talk at the reader:viewer. Involve the reader:viewer. Featuring Steph in the ad is a great way to show what type of people B&H is targeting.
- People buy outcomes. Bring to life the outcome. Steph is a great example of an outcome. (see point 2)
- Have a clear target group. “Steph Mantis came to B&H to take her photography to the next level. She’s an artist by choice, pizza maker by birth, and B&H customer for life.”
- Use repetition (epiphora). Repetition creates rhythm. Rhythm makes it memorable. Use the “power of three” (triclon) and a pattern interrupt (to break the pattern), for example:
- She’s an artist by choice,
- pizza maker by birth,
- and B&H customer for life.
- She’s an artist by choice,
Off to the final conclusion.
The VO narrator sits on the couch with us and asks questions that we would ask ourselves if we were with Steph.
This chummy type of ad and voice-acting captures the lean-back, guy-next-door energy and tone of the B&H brand.
Did the ad work, objectively speaking?
Well, the ad was part of a whole brand awareness campaign. And according to Sibling Rivalry 10 who created the B&H video campaign…
The B&H campaign was one of YouTube’s Top 10 True View Ads for 2019, as listed in AdWeek. Sales went up by 800% in the first two weeks (wow). AND the vast amount of viewer comments were not only positive — they dramatically raised awareness.
…they’ve had some success. 😉
Soooo, yeah. The ad worked!
If you’re in need of my services, please fill out my contact form, to ensure a successful outcome based on my creative process.
In the 4-step form, I’m going to ask for:
- 🇺🇸🇩🇪 language: German or English
- 👩❤️👨 voice gender and age
- 👨💼 additional services (if needed): copywriting, translation, ready-for-audience (edited + finished) voiceover delivery
Additional details + Script
- 🐥 project name
- 📜 project description
- 📝 script
- 🔢 script length (words)
- 📢 broadcast audience size
- 🌏 usage of recording
- 🚚 turnaround time
- Money matters
- 💰 budget
I can help you build trust, create an audience, and establish your brand if you
fill out my contact form.
© 2007-2023 naii.io - German-English Narrative Voice Actor, Sprecher Alexander Kluge
Richard teaches documentary film-making at Syracuse University–he’s a documentary filmmaker himself:
Richard Breyer - Newhouse School at Syracuse University,
The unanswered question is still vague at this point, but it’s going to be clarified later. ↩︎
The B&H voice actor is
Edward Fitzgerald Burns, which is what I confirmed by having watched
this IMDb clip of his voicein a scene from Echelon Conspiracy (2009) and by having checked
his Wikipedia page. And that’s how I also found out that the studio behind the ad campaign is Sibling Rivalry, as they explain in their
B&H case study. They were also the ones who “hand-picked the loveable New York filmmaker, Ed Burns, to be the voice of B&H. He perfectly captures the energy and tone of the brand. He’s also a super nice guy.” ↩︎
Mar 13th, 2023
I later learned about a concept in screenwriting called “Chekhov’s Gun” from Andrew Huang’s video
I faked going to space (and people believed me). In it, his friend Kyah Green explained that Chekhov’s Gun means: whatever happens in the finale should appear in the first act and more importantly backwards. For example, if you put a gun on the wall in the first act, it’s got to go off in the third.
So the cat is a “Chekhov’s Gun”. She appears early on in the ad and then makes her appearance at the end for the punch line.