Writing a script for a commercial requires a unique skill set, as it differs greatly from other forms of writing like screenplays, novels, or essays. Success in the world of commercial scriptwriting lies in the ability to capture the attention of viewers and effectively convey the message of the brand. With experience in the Film and TV industry, the insights shared in this article come from firsthand knowledge of crafting TV commercial scripts for large brands.

Commercial Scripts

A well-crafted commercial script is essential for making an impact on your target audience. This article I will walk you through How to Write a Script for a Commercial and the process that grabs attention, tells a compelling story, utilizes the right format, sets the proper tone, and ultimately leads to an effective call to action. Along the way, you’ll also learn essentials of pre-scripting and the importance of reviewing and revising your work.

The Basics of Commercial Script Writing

When it comes to writing a script for a commercial, understanding the basics is essential. Unlike feature films, TV commercials are short, concise, and need a clear structure. You should focus on winning over the target audience despite the limited time. Let’s look at some differences between commercials and feature films and how the unique nature of the commercial format affects your script writing.

Firstly, the duration of commercials is much shorter than feature films. Commercials are typically divided into various lengths such as 15, 30, 60, or 90 seconds. This constraint makes the script writing process more challenging as it’s essential to communicate your message within the allocated time frame. Feature films, on the other hand, have the luxury of time to develop characters, plotlines, and other elements.

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Secondly, the format of a commercial script is different from that of a feature film. In commercial scripts, you will use a two-column audio/visual (AV) format (shown below). This format allows you to successfully plan and incorporate elements like dialogue, visuals, and sounds. Meanwhile, feature films follow a screenplay format that is more focused on scene descriptions and character dialogue.

In a commercial script, it is integral to have a primary message, such as highlighting a product’s benefit or a company’s offerings. Any secondary messages can be conveyed visually, making your commercial more engaging. When creating a script for a commercial, make sure to prioritize information density and deliver the content your audience is looking for without any unnecessary fluff.

Pre-Scripting Essentials

Before diving into writing a commercial script, it’s vital to have a strong foundation in place. First, research the commercial’s theme, such as the product, service, or message that the brand wants to promote. Understanding the core elements will ensure that you create an effective and engaging script.

Why not watch some existing commercials for inspiration? Analyze their strengths and weaknesses, paying attention to their target audience, tone, and theme. Here is one of my favorite TV commercials which was featured during the 2011 Super Bowl.

Once you have a clear understanding of the commercial’s theme, familiarize yourself with the company’s guidelines and objectives. Are there any specific constraints, such as budget, style, or expectations? Knowing these details will help you tailor your script to meet the company’s standards.

Now that you’ve done your homework, it’s time to consider your target audience. Think about who you’re trying to reach and write your script with them in mind. Craft a message that speaks directly to their needs, desires, and emotions.

A well-structured commercial script often follows the three-act structure: setup, confrontation, and resolution. In the setup, introduce the product or service, along with the problem it solves. The confrontation highlights the product’s unique features and benefits, while the resolution offers a compelling call-to-action that encourages the viewer to take the next step.

Script Formatting Overview

The structure of a TV commercial script consists of an informational header and two columns: one for visual elements and one for audio elements. By following this format, you’ll be able to create a script that clearly communicates your idea to producers and directors.

How to Write a Script for a Commercial: Commercial Script Outline

The header should include necessary details such as the client’s name, script title, writer’s name, draft number, date submitted, length of the commercial, and job ID. This information helps to keep track of the script and streamline the review process.

The Visual Column (Left)

Now, let’s dive into the two main columns of the script. On the left, you’ll have the visual column. Here, you should describe what viewers see on the screen. This includes scene descriptions, camera angles, transitions, graphics, and text. Be concise and specific when describing visual elements to help the production team understand your vision.

The Audio Column (Right)

On the right side, you’ll find the audio column. This is where you describe what viewers hear. Include dialogue, voice-over narration, sound effects, and music. Just like with the visuals, clarity is key, so make sure to provide detailed descriptions of the audio elements.

Crafting the Commercial’s Story

A well-constructed story should follow a three-act structure: the setup (introducing the problem or situation), confrontation (presenting the solution or product), and resolution (ending with a call to action).

The Setup

Begin by focusing on the problem your commercial aims to address. This could be a common issue your target audience faces or a situation that needs a solution. This serves as the foundation of your commercial’s story.

The Confrontation

Next, introduce the solution – your product or service. Make it clear how your product addresses the problem presented in the setup. Showcasing the benefits of your product or service is crucial for convincing your audience they need it in their lives.

Incorporating an emotional reaction, such as humor, drama, suspense, or surprise, can help elicit an emotional response from your viewers. Incorporating these elements will make your commercial more memorable and engaging.

The Resolution

The resolution is where you weave in a call to action, urging viewers to take the next step, such as purchasing your product, signing up for your service, or visiting your website. The resolution should be clear and concise, leaving the viewer with a sense of what they should do next.

To maximize the impact of your commercial’s story, it’s essential to combine visual and audio elements effectively. Successful commercials use visuals to convey the problem, solution, and resolution, while the audio components support the visuals through dialogue, voiceovers, or sound effects.

For example, consider the famous Old Spice commercials with Steven Ogg. They use humor, surprising visuals, and clever dialogue to introduce a problem (lack of confidence), present the solution (Old Spice products), and finally provide a resolution (becoming more confident and attractive).

How to Write a Script for a Commercial: Old Spice Commercials

Remember to keep your commercial’s story brief and to the point. With limited time, it’s important to convey your message quickly and efficiently, without sacrificing the emotional connection with your viewers. By crafting a compelling story that follows a clear structure and evokes emotion, your commercial is sure to make a lasting impact on your target audience.

Setting the Tone and Theme

To set the tone, consider the product and the brand’s image. Ask yourself, what kind of atmosphere or emotion would best represent the product and appeal to the audience? For example, if the product is a children’s toy, you might opt for a playful and upbeat tone. On the other hand, if it’s a luxury car, a more sophisticated and refined tone would be more appropriate.

Picking a theme for your commercial is equally important. A theme is the central idea or message that binds your commercial together. Choose a theme that reflects current trends or social issues, and that strikes a chord with your target audience. Some popular themes in commercials include humor, nostalgia, empowerment, and social responsibility.

For example, if you’re promoting an eco-friendly product, you could choose a theme centered around environmental conservation to appeal to those concerned about our planet’s wellbeing. Alternatively, a commercial for a trendy fashion brand might lean on humor or nostalgia to evoke memories and connect with the audience on a personal level.

Don’t forget to take into account the use of voiceover in your script. A well-chosen voice can reinforce the tone and theme you’ve chosen for your commercial. For instance, a calm and soothing voice would be fitting for a meditation app advertisement, while a more energetic and enthusiastic voice may be suitable for a sports product commercial.

The Call to Action (CTA)

To create a clear CTA that engages your viewers, you must focus on your product’s benefits and features. Mention specific reasons why your audience should consider your product or service, making it easy for them to take the next step. Phrasing your CTA using persuasive and strong verbs can help motivate your viewers to act.

For example, instead of saying “Visit our website,” try a more actionable statement like “Discover your perfect home setup today.” This style of CTA emphasizes the benefits and instills enthusiasm in your audience.

To add a sense of urgency to your CTA, use words and phrases like “now,” “today,” or “limited time.” This encourages your audience to act quickly, as they may feel they could miss out on a unique opportunity.

Imagine you’re promoting a special discount on a product. Your CTA could read, “Grab your 50% discount today, before it’s too late!” By incorporating urgency, you create a feeling that taking action is essential and cannot be delayed.

Review and Revision

First, conduct table reads with actors or colleagues to test and refine the script before production. Use their feedback to revise and improve your script, keeping an eye on length and pacing. Listeners have a limited attention span, so make sure your commercial is short and to the point.

During the review process, be open to constructive criticism from others. Encourage those providing feedback to be honest and specific about what works and what doesn’t. Be willing to make changes for the betterment of your commercial, even if it means letting go of your original vision.

In addition to feedback and revisions, pay close attention to the technical aspects of your script. Check for spelling, grammar, and punctuation errors, and ensure the script meets the company’s guidelines and objectives. Consider using Screenwriting Software to help streamline your editing process and catch any errors you might have missed.

Finally, keep a conversational and friendly tone throughout your script. Engage your audience with questions, jokes, and relatable content. Focus on information density, delivering essential messages quickly without fluff. A polished, well-revised, and engaging script will significantly improve the success of your commercial.

5 Tips for Writing a Compelling Commercial

To write a compelling commercial, follow these tips:

  1. Keep it simple: Focus on one central message or theme. Overcomplicating your commercial may confuse the viewers or dilute the impact.
  2. Show, don’t tell: Instead of merely presenting facts, use visuals, sounds, and actions to communicate your message. This helps create an emotional connection with the audience.
  3. Create a relatable scenario: Use characters or situations that your target audience can identify with, making it easier for them to understand the benefits of your product or service.
  4. Use a call-to-action: Clearly communicate the desired outcome, whether it’s visiting a website, making a phone call, or purchasing a product. Make sure to keep the call-to-action simple and easy to understand.
  5. Revise and edit: Always proofread and double-check your script for any errors or inconsistencies. A polished script ensures smoother production and a more professional final product.

My Commercial Script Example

Here is a commercial script example for you to check out and model from when you write your own script.

Commercial Script Outline

A Free Commercial Script Layout to Download

Below is my commercial script outline in a PDF form which you are welcome to download and use yourself. Don’t worry, no residuals needed! 😉

And THAT’S How to Write a Script for a Commercial

A well-written script for a TV commercial is vital in capturing the attention of viewers and effectively conveying the message of your brand. Remember, success lies in the details, so invest your time and effort into crafting that perfect script, incorporating all the tips and steps provided in this article.

Writing a commercial script is an art, and you should never underestimate the power of a great story to engage your audience. Focus on information density, delivering the message quickly and without fluff. As you incorporate these elements into your script, always remember to review and revise it to ensure it best serves your goals and resonates with your viewers.

In the end, writing a captivating script for a commercial is a valuable skill that takes practice and dedication. Don’t be afraid to experiment, seek feedback, and always strive for constant improvement. Keep honing your writing skills, and watch as your commercials make a lasting impression on your audience.

Now that you know how to write a script for a commercial, I want to wish you good luck, and happy scriptwriting!

Frequently Asked Questions

What’s the best way to start a commercial script?

When starting a commercial script, first determine the goal of your ad and identify your target audience. This will help guide the tone and style of your script. Next, brainstorm ideas for the opening scene that will instantly grab the viewers’ attention. Remember, you have a limited timeframe to engage and hold your audience, so ensure that your opening is impactful and sets the tone for the rest of the commercial.

Where can I find script templates?

Script templates can be invaluable tools in helping you format your commercial script correctly and save time. You can find a variety of script templates by searching online or visiting websites like Adobe Spark, Celtx, and Boords. These templates will provide the proper formatting for audio/visual scripts, making it easier for you to focus on writing engaging content for your commercial.

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