Breaking The Tape Sharply

Hey, there!

I often give an adjustment to my clients and students that asks them to take the copy again, but this time, break the tape sharply.


Here’s what I mean by that.

The tape I’m referring to is the finish line of a foot race.

Long before there was laser guided finish lines and digital timers. someone would stretch an actual ribbon of paper tape across the finish line, and the winner of the race would break the tape as they crossed the line.

Breaking that tape sharply, with gusto, is what the track coach wants. He doesn’t want you to coast across the finish line. When I ran track, if you ever made that mistake, you did laps. He wanted you to go for it – to keep your momentum all the way through the end of the race and beyond. I once got a great piece of advice on this: run the 100 as though it was a 220 – you’ll never be caught napping at the very end of the race.

So what does all this have to do with VO?

It’s actually a metaphor you can use for all your projects in life – do what you need to do to maintain your energy all the way through to the completion of any project. There’s nothing like getting things almost done and dropping the ball to ruin your confidence and waste everyone’s time.

And, in particular, when voicing a piece of copy, breaking the tape sharply means keeping character, intention and energy all the way through to the end of your performance.

Don’t get happy with yourself that you did the most of the spot well, or pronounced that one tricky word correctly, or got that turn of a phrase perfect, and then kind of tail off at the end, dropping your energy and your pitch. Music often is rising at the end of a spot, you’re going to be overlapped with some other commercial – don’t let your words be lost.

And it’s critical to make sure that if the brand name, product name or positioning statement concludes the spot, that you say it with the energy it deserves, and that it’s not just an afterthought. End with a flourish on an over-the-top read, a wistful ending on an aspirational spot, a final exclamation that lets the listener taste the cheese on that burger you’re talking about in the copy.

Don’t let your energy flag at the very last moment.

Seal the deal. Break the tape sharply. Then you can relax.

Hope this helps.


4 Responses to Breaking The Tape Sharply

  1. Kevin Scott Allen October 21, 2015 at 9:36 am #

    Love that expression. I’m going to use it in my own classes (with credit for introducing me to it being given to you!)

  2. MJ Lallo October 21, 2015 at 11:07 am #

    Yeah– I ran track too! I know the feeling. But cool to use it as a metaphor for VO.
    THX David!

  3. Michelle August 11, 2018 at 7:26 am #

    I love this!! What a great analogy. Thank you!

  4. Tom Beyer August 11, 2018 at 4:03 pm #

    “…let them taste the cheese on that burger.” GOD, I LOVE that SO much!!!

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