TV Commercial Scriptwriting

Writing scripts for commercial TV is similar to a lot of other scriptwriting, with a few exceptions. There are frequent, hard runtime restrictions, especially when you’re talking about broadcast. At the end of the day, however, your goal is still to write an engaging scene that accomplishes at least one of two things:

  1. Provides the audience with information that they didn’t have before, and that they’ll perceive as valuable.
  2. Provokes an emotional reaction.

It’s also imperative in every case to draw your audience in as quickly as possible. People are predisposed to zone out when a commercial comes on. You need to capitalize on the brief time you have before the audience decides to look away.

Now, you can probably tell that these are essentially universal tenants of writing. Good writing rarely fails to grab attention quickly, and rarely features subjects about which everyone 1) already knows, and 2) has no strong opinion. If you write a script that provides no new information about the product and elicits no emotional reaction from the audience, you have no hope of its success. Writing a commercial is the same way.

But, fear not! There are a few pillars of commercial scriptwriting that we’ve come to know after, you know, penning literally thousands of them. So, without further ado, let’s dive in.

Know the Product

Trust is important. Convince consumers to like or trust one brand’s aesthetic/attitude over another and the lion’s share of the work is already done. But, this is a page about commercial writing, not a marketing seminar.  With that in mind, writing commercials, like most other types of writing, starts with research.

Man writes with black marker on a clearboard
Scriptwriting for commercial TV starts with research.

If you’re writing a commercial to promote a certain type of software, you better know what it does. What’s more, you better know what make this company’s software superior, compared to similar software from another company. If you don’t know, there’s no way you’re going to be able to lay it out in the sharp, precise terms that a thirty second commercial demands.

Generally, I find that the more you know about the product, the more interesting it appears. It’s not that you need to find a product fascinating in order to write a good script, but if you don’t, you need to be damn good at faking it. Not just for the sake of script, but for the sake of the company you’re writing for! Tipping a client off that you think their product is stupid is a great way to make sure you never write about it again. Maybe you’re ok with that personally, but it’s not great for business.

Genuine energy and excitement is palpable. Don’t fight it; embrace it. If you’re inspired, there’s hope that other people take notice.

Know Your Client

Listen to them! You need to know exactly what it is the client wants their commercial to do. If they’re a new company, they probably want their spot to explain their product and show an example of it’s utility. Name recognition is a factor. An older company–maybe one with declining sales– might want to turn heads with something adventurous. If a client wants a script that’s earnest and you hand them one that’s zany, it won’t go over well.

Essentially, it all boils down to tone. If you’ve done your homework and you know the product inside and out, all that remains is to find the best way to present it. But, your idea of the best way might not jive with the client’s. Defend your position, but don’t go crazy over it. You need to know when to push and when to concede.

That knowledge comes from building a relationship. The best way to avoid frustrating revisions is to understand everyone’s perspective. Ideally, both you and the client are excited about the finished script. But, at the end of the day, it’s their product and they have the final word. The best way to ensure their word is the same as yours is to anticipate their needs.

Make the Confines Friendly

Three-person team at a table discussing printouts
There is some creative freedom is involved in all scriptwriting sessions.

You might think writing TV commercials is a bit restrictive. It’s true to some extent, though the level of creative freedom you have might vary from client to client. There’s a puzzle element to it, in that you’re not figuring out what to say, you’re figuring out the best, most efficient way to say it.

That’s a challenge ECG loves! Finding the right blend of entertainment, information, and eye-catching visuals is incredibly rewarding. What’s more, helping our clients reach new heights is a win for everyone.

So what product or service of yours can we make shine in a commercial for you? Get the conversation started today.