Behind The Scenes
How a TV Commercial Gets Made
So you’re thinking maybe you’d like to invest in an ad to promote your brand, product or service on TV… but first you want to know just what you’re getting yourself into. Let’s see if TV advertising is really worth the higher-dollar price tag.
TV IS HOTTER THAN EVER
You might also be thinking, “Is this the right move, what with all the social media ad options out there?” While yes, video ads on YouTube, Facebook and Instagram are hot and can help you gain traction, rest assured that TV commercials and commercial video production have never lost their fire in the wake of these new mediums. Even with internet and social media advertising growing massively, TV is still the giant gorilla that can show King Kong-like strength if done well. Plus, certain TV ad formats offer clear advantages, such as restrictions on skipping through or fast-forwarding. With a clever or inspiring concept, great execution and a smart media buy, your next TV commercial or YouTube Shorts can help you move the dial closer to your marketing goals.
A few numbers that prove TV advertising still packs a punch, care of CMO by Adobe1:
- We’re watching. American adults watch 5 hours of live and time-shifted television daily!
- YouTube’s got nothing on TV. In a recent eye-tracking survey, TV won twice the active viewership of YouTube.
- TV gets more watch-throughs. Connected TV ad data reveals higher completion rates (95%) over desktop (75%) and mobile (72%).
- Live TV audiences are growing. In 2022, 35 million viewers are expected to watch live TV through a streaming service, such as Sling TV or Hulu.
- Brands are spending more on TV. By 2020, programmatic TV ad spending should reach $4.73 billion—almost triple the 2018 ad dollars!
TV AD STRATEGY STARTS WITH A PLAN
Now that your doubts and fears about TV’s reach have effectively been eviscerated, it’s time to press on and learn a little bit about what all goes into making a TV commercial. You’ve likely seen your fair share of good ads and bad ones, and then there are those ads that tickle your funny bone or stir your emotions and stick with you.
The secret of making television ads that move your viewers lies in a structured process strategically designed to get results. Whether you’re aiming to build brand awareness with trickle-in results over time (as typical of a branded ad) or looking for immediate action (typical of a direct response ad), following this process can help you create a TV commercial that will grow your business in one way or another. Let’s get started!
A WINNING TV AD IN 9 STEPS
Why spend the cheddar on a media buy if you’re not planning to hit a homerun? Follow this blueprint to maximize your ad dollars with a TV commercial that turns more heads.
Onboarding with your production company
Find a TV production company you want to work with (think: great rep, good reviews/testimonials and an impressive body of work) and get onboarded with them in a way that makes you feel that they fully understand your needs and wants. Ensure a positive first step by bringing as much information about your product or service as possible to your kickoff meeting, as well as any info you might have on the industry, your competitors, short and long-term goals and other facets of your biz. Onboarding is also your chance to learn more about the production team and their creative process to be certain they are a good fit.
Before starting work on a TV commercial, you will want to create a creative brief (most production companies should put this together for you). The creative brief is a document that outlines all of the details and goals of your project. It is not limited to but should include background info on your company and product or service, brand guidelines, objectives of the ad, ad budget, deadline and more. The goal here is to make sure everyone involved in the project on both sides is crystal clear on what is expected before moving ahead.
Also known as “the big idea,” your creative concept can make or break your ad. But arriving at that big idea is in itself a process, so don’t feel pressured to figure it out in one brainstorming session. Feel free to bring concepts to your production team if you have some dreamed up, but it’s really the creative team’s job to present you with ways to approach your TV commercial. As you mine your world for inspiration, think: Do you want it to be funny? Informative? Do you want a host? Or maybe an animation! The sky’s the limit, so think out of the box and enlist your team to choose the best concept that fits both your brand and your goals.
After the creative concept is nailed down, your production company can start work on developing a mood board for your television ad. This should outline all the details of the style and mood of the spot (but not necessarily include specifics at this point). Most mood boards will look very similar to your general brand guidelines but unique to the TV ad itself, and cover things like music, graphic styles, casting descriptions, potential cinematic styles to emulate, and more.
With your concept and mood board properly hammered out and approved, it’s time for a professional copywriter to work his or her magic writing the actual script. Your TV ad copy might be made up of dialog between characters, a voice over or even talking points if you choose to go with video interview/testimonial-style TV ad. Be sure to request at least two to three revisions in the copywriting phase so your team can review and add your company’s voice and tone.
Talent & Locations
Your production company will take the approved script and get to work casting voice over actors and/or live actors for your TV commercial. Depending on the size of the production budget, you may be able to hold video auditions or in-person reads at a casting studio. To find the right setting for your commercial, a location liaison will research the various location needs based on the project budget and provide the team with possible options before renting and pulling permits for the shoot day.
The storyboards are a very important step to getting both teams on the same page before production day. Storyboards serve to outline where and how the director is planning to shoot each scene. They don’t have to be elaborate; simple pencil on paper or even photo references from the shooting location will get the point across. Either way, storyboards help get everyone comfortable with the plan before lights, camera, action.
Production day is where the action happens, when all the hard work of prepping and planning comes together to fulfill the team’s creative vision for your TV ad. Though you may not necessarily need to be on set during filming, you can choose to watch how it all comes together. It can be a fun day, especially if you have never created a commercial before! If you do join the set, you may be able to weigh in on certain issues or decisions that arise about the video’s execution.
Post-production, aka “editing,” can take several days, but if production day went as planned, this step should be fairly smooth and rather enjoyable to sit in on. During post-production, you will have the opportunity to see the original footage get edited into a story, with graphics and titles added, color mastering, audio mixing and the final touches put on before you export for TV!
That’s it—ten pretty straightforward steps to your next big TV ad hit! It may not seem like an easy process right off the bat, but if you find the right production pros who know how to take an idea and run with it, you should get more than your money’s worth. In the end, you’ll come out ahead with a better TV ad that (hopefully) achieves the results you were aiming for from the start.