Writing an AV script template can be a nerve-racking undertaking. Your message may be simple, but getting it down to one-minute timing can be an intimidating thing.
Don’t worry. As with any creative endeavor, you just need to lock down your structure. This is what a trusty AV script template (or audio visual template) does: it arranges the sights and sounds of your idea into a linear flow.
In today’s post, we’ll go end-to-end on how to write a commercial script. And you’ll find a free AV script template below to capture your idea right away.
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How to write a commercial script
When crafting a commercial, it’s important to know where you’re going. Otherwise, even if you’re super-clear on what you want to accomplish, small creative choices can detour your vision.
Thankfully, it’s simple to learn how to write a commercial script. A two-column script template is all you need to get started (which is true in documentaries and music videos too).
But before filling out your video script template, keep a few things in mind:
Start with what you’re saying
Get yourself (and team) really clear about your video’s intentions.
If you are working with a creative team or client, you might consider starting with a creative brief. This will hammer out the general goals and execution for everyone to sign off on.
If that isn’t necessary, boil your concept down to its core messaging. What is the call to action you’re driving toward? What should the audience take away?Consider this recent spot from McDonald’s.
The intention is straightforward: convince people to buy those tasty Crispy Tenders. The chicken tenders drive the concept: grandmas love chicken good enough to “pass as their own.”
If the concept also featured, say, new dipping sauces, it would have been different. Grandmas are probably more known for their homemade chicken recipes than their dipping sauces.
If you aren’t extremely specific, your concept can go off course easily.
Be the audience
You’ll also want to be extremely clear who your target audience is.
If you’re uncertain, utilize the metrics available to you. If your audience is on Facebook, for example, the platform includes very explicit viewership metrics.
Once your solid on who they are, consider how they are. If your product skews young, check out what is trending for that demo (make Google Trends your friend). Try to get inside their heads. Tour the videos they like to watch until you can hear their voice.
If your audience is pretty broad (like McDoanld’s), go for something universal. Who can’t appreciate some good-natured grandma humor?
Boil it down to a beginning, middle and end
Even though you’re aiming for a short running time, break your video script template into beginning, middle, and end.
Back to the Crispy Tenders. Let’s look at the very simple structure they adopted.
In the beginning, the grandmas smile and jump around. Just as your curiosity is piqued, a pair of hands clap in an explosion of breading.
Then, a title card announces “Buttermilk Crispy Tenders Are Back.”
In the middle portion, the women dance with chicken tenders. One tosses her wire whisk aside. Here, we learn why they’re excited: because they can scrap their recipes and buy McDonalds instead.
Finally, we end on a call to action. We see some tasty Crispy Tenders with their “Grandma Endorsed” seal of approval.
Is anyone else getting hungry?
How to use our video script template
Structure is the most important thing to keep in mind as you fill out your video script template.
Our AV script template is broken out into beginning, middle and end. To start, space your main events across each section.
Now flesh out each event. What are the specific visuals and sounds the audience will see and hear?
If you were to copy the McDonald’s example, the beginning section would establish the dancing grandmas.
Do some thinking on the look and feel. What is the type of song they dance to? How many grandmas are there? Be clear with your descriptions, but don’t go into too much detail.
Other specifications to consider
There are a few words or abbreviations you may want to include to better communicate how your visuals and audio are presented.
- MONTAGE: is a collection of shots that cut around from one to another.
- VFX means any visual effects seen.
- V.O. (or “voice-over” or “narrator”) means any words spoken over the video.
- O.C. refers to words spoken by a character off-camera. This is different from V.O. because O.C. refers to a character’s audio within the filmed scene.
- SFX refers to any sound effects you’ll hear.
In the video column, you might also include what kind of shots you plan to use as well.
Do you need more than a two-column script template?
It seems natural that an audio-video script require only two columns. But some prefer to use a three-column script template (or more) to capture additional information.
This might include shot numbers, timecodes, or additional graphics and audio.
If those are vital to your concept, then right-click on the column in the Google Docs script template and select one of the “insert row” options to add a new column you AV script template.
Otherwise, stick with the two-column script template.
Read your AV script template aloud
Writing something and acting it out are two very different things. If your commercial requires voice-over or dialogue, consider hosting a table read. Hearing the words spoken will better inform if everything is clear, economic and hitting the right tone.Use it as an opportunity to make your final tweaks and revisions to your video script template. Soon enough, you’ll get the sign-offs you need and move into pre-production.
As you solidify your AV script template, drive toward what your viewer is taking away. Whether it’s information or a specific product, build to a call-to-action they can’t refuse.
And remember what radio personality Ira Glass said: “your taste is why your work disappoints you.” Don’t get discouraged if your video script template doesn’t take shape immediately. Patiently whittle that bad boy down until you achieve your vision.
To dive deeper into writing good commercials, check out how to incorporate persuasive techniques.
And be sure to let us know which guidelines you like to use when writing commercials in the comments below!
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