Scots accent no better than English in adverts, claims research


RESEARCHERS have debunked the widespread belief that Scottish accents can help sell products.

A rich Scots brogue regularly top the polls as the friendliest, most trustworthy and calming across Britain.

It is highly prized in the world of advertising, and is popular with those who work in call centres and on TV.

But new research suggests the accent makes almost no difference when used in radio commercials.

It even found that a haggis advertisement read out in traditional Scots brogue had no greater effect on listeners than the same pitch delivered in a standard English accent.

Ewan McGregor stars in the latest BT adverts
Ewan McGregor stars in the latest BT adverts


Research completed by Rosa Hendricks from the Radbound University, Nijmegen, Netherlands, focused on two quintessentially Scottish and English products – haggis and a Yorkshire pudding.

The same advertisement for each was read out first in a Scottish accent and then in standard English, to see whether a native accent could influence customer response.

Despite previous surveys showing that Sir Sean Connery’s silky purr and Ewan McGregor’s honey-dipped tones are the most desirable in business, Ms Hendricks found the accent made hardly any difference in terms of convincing listeners to buy the product.

She asked 162 students from the University of Sheffield to listen to the advertisements and rate different aspects.

Surprisingly, the change in response was so marginal that attitudes towards each accent varied by only a couple of percent.

The students were asked to rate their reaction to the advert on a scale of one to seven, with one being the most positive and seven being the most negative.

The results showed that on average, commercial appreciation for the Scottish accent stood at 4.24 – only marginally more positive than standard English at 4.43.

Ms Hendricks writes that “the findings suggest that the different accents in the radio advertisements… had no influence of any significance on young English consumers.”

Sean Connery has "done no harm" for the Scottish accent
Sean Connery has “done no harm” for the Scottish accent


She added that the different accents “did not affect their attitude towards the speaker” and there was “no significant main effect of accent on commercial appreciation”.

There was also no convincing difference in how well the speaker and advert was understood.

Most surprisingly, Ms Hendricks revealed that “advertising haggis with a Scottish accent did not affect young English consumers any more than advertising haggis with an English accent did”.

Despite her results, the Scottish accent itself was rated more highly than its English rival.

On the same one to seven scale, the Scottish accent was awarded an average of 3.06 in terms of consumer attitude towards accent – more positive than the 3.88 for standard English.

Concluding her research, Ms Hendricks writes that advertisers “should remain cautious when implementing native accents of English into their radio advertisements in England”.

BT TV adverts, which are broadcast across the whole of the UK, feature Ewan McGregor’s dulcet tones in a bid to get viewers to sign up.

Similarly Bill Torrance, who boasts the “best male Scottish voice” in the country, has provided voiceovers for the likes of Air Canada, Rolls Royce and Sainsburys.

Commenting on the research he said: “Well I make a living out of my accent so there is obviously something good about it.

“It’s not just the accent that advertisers want but the voice as well – a deeper voice is more reassuring and gives out more warmth.

“I don’t think Sean Connery has done any harm to the reputation of the Scottish accent either – in my early days I was sick to death of advertisers asking me to impersonate him.

“Advertisers just tend to use Scottish accents, and you can see that in the number of times it has been used in adverts across the world.”