Ever wondered how to write a great commercial?
We know a thing or two about great commercials, so we‘re here to give you some advice about how to write them, in 7 easy steps.
Nail the brief.
If anything is unclear or missing from the brief the commercial won’t be a success. What is the benefit you’re selling? If it’s not in the brief it won’t be in the commercial. If the brief is confusing, two things can happen. One, you’ll have a confusing unfocused commercial. Or two, you’ll have a thousand rewrites in order to get things right.
What’s the style you’re going to be writing?
Following the brief, you should have a good idea of the style of ad your client wants. Is it a single VO? Is it two or more actors playing out a scene? Is it a combination of the two? Are you actually writing the words for a jingle that is being created? Is it a hard sell or soft sell, corporate or street style? Once you know this, you’re finally ready to start writing.
You’re trying to stand out from the crowd remember. So, saying things the way people do in everyday life isn’t going to cut through. Think about movies. Situations are amplified in movie scripts and they need to be amplified in commercial scripts too. Say things more dramatically and in a unique or even weird way if you can. The trick here is to keep them real and that often comes back to the VO. Thesaurus is your friend and your enemy here. Use different words, but not words that are so clever the audience won’t understand them. Unless you are using a crazy big word to make a point like the Smiths Crisps ad from years ago where the used celebrities to describe the flavour of their chips. For the entire ad, the celeb would simply say “big” when asked to describe the flavour and then at the end, one would say something like “hippopotamic”. The VO would then question the celebrity about the meaning of that word and the celebrity would then say “BIG”.
Don’t overdo things like phone numbers and useless information.
Clients often think that they’ve paid a lot of money to have this commercial written, produced and put to air, so they want to get bang for their buck. As a result, they want every minute piece of information about their business or product in the commercial. Phone numbers are the worst. When was the last time anyone wrote a phone number down after hearing it or seeing it in a commercial? Nobody does because by the time you find a pen after pulling over to the side of the road or getting to the kitchen or study in your house, you’ve forgotten the number no matter how many times it gets said. So instead of selling the benefit of the product better and in so doing creating a better engagement with the listener, you’ve just wasted 5 seconds of your 30-second commercial with the phone number or other useless information.
Don’t use meaningless words.
More to the point don’t use words that are easy for people to fob off. Words like “Quality”, “Service”, “Value for Money” etc. Two things about these types of words. Firstly, they’re quite subjective. Your version of value for money may be quite different to mine. Secondly, if you’ve got to tell me that your establishment has any of these words, I’m thinking you must have a problem with these things because honestly doesn’t every good business or product have “quality, value for money and service”? These words are not just meaningless they are off putting and taking up space and time in your commercial.
There are too many to go into really, but for example, if you’re having and Australia Day sale and you’ve got the OTT Aussie VO with a BBQ sizzling in the background and every “fair dinkum” Aussie phrase in the book being used, then you’re not only being predictable, you’re being clichéd! Try to spin things 180 degrees in order to get away from the predictable. For an Australia day sale, why not do the first 5 seconds as a conversation between 2 people from Germany spoken in German who are trying to read a map. They finally approach someone and ask for directions to your store in broken English and get told that your stores really easy to find and that it’s just around the corner. VO comes on at the end saying “People are coming from everywhere for our Australia Day sale. You’ll understand why when you get here”.
Spend as much money on production as you can.
A bad VO with awful production values will undo all the good work done by a scriptwriter quicker than you can say “change the channel”. A well written and produced commercial will pay for itself as long as everything preceding this point has been adhered to.