Commercials are everywhere. They’re on your iPhone, they’re on your television, they’re on the sides of buildings.
They’re even in some bathroom stalls.
As a creator it’s harder than ever to stand out in noise. But with the right tools, you can learn how to make a commercial memorable, but compelling. Learning how to make a commercial pop is knowing your strategy.
1. Understand your client's brand
At the heart of every TV commercial is a company’s brand. Unless you know that brand inside and out, you won’t be able to write a commercial TV script.
Would Cheerios run a TV ad showcasing a group of surfer bros? Would El Pollo Loco advertise to vegans? Would GoDaddy.com ever make something tasteful?
Because television commercials run in the peak times for the demographic, understanding the brand is key.
Knowing a brand is also key to deviating from it.
Mr. Clean: How to make a commercial that riffs on brand memory
If you can understand the core of your product’s brand, you can also pivot on it like Mr. Clean did at the 2017 Superbowl TV commercials.
Mr. Clean has always put the ‘family’ in ‘family brand.’
In years of tv ads, Mr. Clean is always there when spaghetti’s on the floor. Kids smile at him. He has a close relationship with moms…which was perfect for flipping on its head.
By making their mascot sexy, Mr. Clean had a truly great commercial on their hands. But making this commercial would be impossible if the creators didn’t thoroughly understand the brand’s history.
2. Know your agency's strength
Is your creative director a master joke teller? Do you have an eye for dramatic narratives? Can you make each frame dazzle?
Making a great commercial is having a singular, focused strategy.
Making a commercial isn’t about discovery; it’s about execution. Risk tasking should always be calculated. In many ways, learning how to make a commercial pop is learning what your agency specializes in.
Pro tip: Reorganize your agency's roster
Most TV commercial production companies, organize their staff into creatives, crew, animators, etc. which can undermine talent.
Instead, give your staff A-Team roles.
On the A-Team, there was the brains, the looks, the mechanic, and Mr. T.
By rebranding your staff’s positions to “the funny one,” “the one who can make things look pretty,” you start a brainstorm session which helps you figure out what your company can specialize in.
3. Give your commercial conflict
Every “how to make a commercial” post always says, “Tell a story.” What most creators forget is that story equals character plus conflict.
Your conflict could be the problem your product solves, as is the case with most explainer videos. It could be completely unrelated. Conflict immediately gives your viewer something to invest in, your product’s message aside.
Effective tv ads don’t have to have large, sweeping conflicts. In fact, smaller is often better. Two friends arguing is a common conflict for most commercials. Unrequited flirtation is another.
What makes a good commercial is a beginning, middle, and end, whether it’s a two minute spot or a five second flash. A conflict, big or small, is one of the first steps in how to make a commercial engaging.
Pro tip: Think of your product as a character
With mascots, characters, and celebrity cameos, ads can sometimes forget the most important character: the product they’re selling.
By giving an arc to the physical product, you turn storytelling into story-selling. We’re not saying you should drop your actors completely and only focus on a bag of peanuts for thirty seconds.
A TV commercial focusing on buds hanging out arguing is a great setup for the final character, a bag of Doritos, who always makes things better.
4. Storyboard your commercial
Great commercials grab their viewers by the eyes.
Whether it’s rapid movement, a gorgeous close up, or an impressive long take, effective ads grab your attention and never let it go, product and message aside.
To craft these images, production companies storyboard every frame of their commercial. Some agencies don’t even bother wit TV commercial scripts and just storyboard.
Watch your final product before commercial shoot. Show it to your clients for a round of feedback (more on that later).
StudioBinder's storyboard software makes it easy to visualize your project.
But what about that jingle I’m writing?
Maybe give it up. Since most commercials on TV are now on Instagram and Facebook, there’s a good chance your viewer won’t hear any of that voice over you spent literal days on.
Writing a punchy script can make great commercial, but storyboarding will ensure all the work you spend on the works and concepts is communicated visually for the most effect.
5. Create a precise shot list
Great commercials look pretty. Good commercials look pretty. Bad commercials look pretty.
Now that you can shoot a commercial on your iPhone, having high quality footage is merely the bar to entry for making a commercial. Finding ways to draw attention to your quality, however, will still set your TV ads apart.
Whether it’s an interesting camera movement, place it front and center. This could mean lingering on a gorgeous shot a hair second more or giving a joke ample set up time and room for the pay off.
As you make your commercial, stop and ask yourself what aspect of your commercial are you highlighting right now? What’s being underplayed?
Plan your shots in advance with StudioBinder's Shot List Builder.
Pro tip: Use stock footage
If you’re on a tight budget or just don’t have the resources to capture all your shots, stock footage can be not only a great option, but the first move you should make.
Most stock footage sites offer easy searchability and large libraries that the best TV commercials all drawn from. Use this list of best stock footage sites to start your search.
6. Keep your commercial short
TV commercials are 30 to 60 seconds. Snapchat ads are 5.
Brevity is key, but it starts with your TV commercial script. Unlike a movie where you can cut and edit it all together in post, commercials have to be planned down to the word, down to the millisecond.
With all that pressure, it’s important to condense your TV commercial script below your allotted time.
This gives you wiggle room on the commercial shoot if you find a beat needs more room to breathe. Leaving an extra three seconds in pre-production is a simple lesson on how to write a commercial script.
Pro tip: Use a commercial script template
Structuring with a template is a great way how to make a good commercial script. While you can write down your ideas in Final Draft, a template keeps you organized and focused word by word, second by second.
7. Always think in the long-run
Do you think the creators of the Geico Gecko knew they’d spawn years and years worth of television commercials?
The secret behind the best Geico commercials is that they thought in the long run. While it’s easy to think of television commercials as a one off concepts, think of commercials as franchises.
It can help you develop characters people will want to stay around, invest in, and hopefully get your TV commercial production company more gigs.
As you write your TV commercial script, write the sequels as well. It’ll give your first one more shape than it did before.
Pro tip: Study the best TV commercials
Effective commercials have learned from crappy TV commercials’ mistakes. Don’t let their wisdom go to waste. It can be a great way to brainstorm a story or capture a tone for your own work.
8. Work the CTA (call-to-action) backwards
Why are commercial advertisements made?
To spur action.
The most important part of any advertising commercial are those final moments where we have the choice to convert. Work backwards from your call to action. It should be the first thing you write into your TV commercial script.
If you’re making a funny TV commercial, it should beat nicely with your punchline.
Make your call to action as simple as possible. In the advent of interactive ads, make the screen clickable. The easier you make your call to action, the more likely your viewer will do it.
9. Be transparent with your clients
When talking about how to make a commercial video, it’s easy to forget client interaction
The best TV commercial production companies stay in constant contact with their clients. It’s the right thing to do and feedback makes everything stronger.
If you think the placement of your TV commercial is wrong, talk to them. If you their notes won’t make for a great commercial, talk to them. You may have a good commercial, but it’s missing a key feature.
Send detailed budgets, get approval on new directions, say please and thank you. It’s not hard to act professional.
Pro Tip: Send call sheets to your clients
Before the commercial’s shoot, send the call sheet to your clients to get final approval. With StudioBinder, you can send a polished text to them the night before that looks professional.
What makes a good commercial video isn’t just what’s onscreen. It’s how you carry yourself in the production process. Learning how to make a commercial includes responding to clients in a timely manner.
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