How to choose the right tone of voice for your creative pitch

By Kylie Harcourt, Feb 21 2017
HGB’s creative director, Kylie Harcourt has an enviable track record when it comes to putting together a winning pitch. She explains the three different tones of voice she uses and how to pick the right one.

A pitch is a pitch is a pitch, right? Wrong.

To use a sporting analogy, a cricket pitch is very different to a rugby pitch which is very different to a football pitch. Play the wrong sport on the wrong pitch and you’re not going to get the results you want.

The same can be said about a marketing and advertising pitch. Put forward the wrong team with the wrong game plan and it’s a sure fire way to give your competition a win.

So what are the elements of a successful pitch? First of all, know your audience, believe in your product, and understand who your competitors are. Then, design a creative pitch that pushes the boundaries and blows your client’s mind.


At the heart of your pitch is your tone of voice. This is the tone you want your campaign to take. Therefore, it’s important to establish this from the outset. Whatever tone you take, whatever language you use to speak to your campaign’s audience, this will form the foundations for subsequent marketing and advertising activity.

Here are three examples of some common, but very different, creative tones of voice:

1. Targeted

A targeted tone of voice is very goal oriented. It speaks directly to the audience and has a clear purpose. It’s the tone of voice you use when you want to hit the bullseye.

We use this tone of voice regularly when putting together fundraising pitches for our charitable clients. As not-for-profit organisations, every dollar counts and they often have a particular project or item in mind they are asking funding groups for.

During this process we get straight to the point, clearly highlighting who our clients are, the value they bring to the community, and the importance of the funding they are applying for. These projects have a tangible outcome. In other words, we either hit the bullseye – or we’re in the red.

2. Competitive

A competitive tone of voice raises the bar. It’s designed to get the reader’s blood pumping, raise the excitement level, and issue a challenge of what you’re proposing your marketing and advertising campaign can achieve.

At HGB, we recently put together a pitch for an international sports game. The tone of voice we adopted was designed to create hype for sports fans around the patriotic rivalry the match presented. We wanted the campaign to unearth the thrill of watching the battle on the sports field unfold in the flesh.

This competitive tone was to be depicted in the imagery used, the colours and contrast, as well as the text.

3. Emotional

An emotional tone of voice evokes exactly that – emotion. Customers won’t always remember what has been said, but they will remember how they have been made to feel. A successful marketing and advertising campaign with an emotive tone of voice will provoke those feelings.

Another client we have here at HGB offers sporting and educational experiences for overseas visitors to New Zealand. When designing a creative concept for their marketing and advertising collateral, we wanted to create an authentic tone of voice, one that really captured the uniqueness of the experience. Our strapline Make your New Zealand story one worth telling was designed to evoke a personal response from our clients’ audience.


Getting your pitch right certainly has its benefits, but selecting the right tone of voice depends on how well you understand the proposal. To ensure you tailor your pitch appropriately, preliminary research is important.

These three top tips will help you choose the right tone of voice:

  1. Take a look through your client’s previous work. What type of creative concepts and tone of voice have they used in earlier campaigns?
  2. Look at your client’s competitors and determine what type of concepts of tone of voice they’ve chosen to use.
  3. Research your client’s culture. What type of company or organisation are they? What values do they work too? How do they present themselves? Understanding your client will give you an idea of the type of concept they may – or may not – respond too.
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