October 10, 2019

Here's How You Should Write a TV Commercial

Lots of directors get their start in advertising, so let's go over how you can use our free script template to write a TV commercial. 

Screenwriting is my passion, but I pay the daily bills right now by doing a lot of work in advertising -- and even writing some television commercials. I made my way here by working for directors who generally were handed scripts by agencies and asked me to punch them up. 

Advertising is a great, steady source of income, and mastering the basics can help your resume stand out from the other stacks. Much like our free screenwriting software post, we wanted to share this free TV commercial script template to use at your leisure as well. 

You shouldn't go in debt trying to get a good job! 

So how do you write a TV ad? 

Writing a commercial has never been easier and it has never been more in demand. Advertisements play before every YouTube video and all over Facebook and Twitter. There is a huge need for that kind of work and content -- especially for people who can create a narrative that makes people keep watching. 

But what does that script look like on the page?  

Basically, a TV script is two columns. On the left, you have the visuals. On the right, you have the audio.

At the top, you put the client's name, your name, and the job ID (so you and your collaborators can keep track). Also, give your spot a title that describes the ad - for instance, "NEW NINTENDO SYSTEM."

Finally, specify how long the spot should be. Most TV and internet ads are a minute, thirty seconds, or fifteen seconds. Some can even be eight seconds in length. 

This script can be built in Word or Pages fairly easy, but MeHow Design provides these simple, free commercial script templates for your use!

TV Ad Script Examples 

Now that you know how TV commercial scripts are formatted, let's look at a few examples to show you how the professionals get it done. 

You'll notice right off the bat that the language used in the visual portion is not especially flowery. This is not supposed to read beautiful, it's supposed to be concise and get everything aligned so your artistic vision blends seamlessly with the brand's intention. 

Credit: SlideShare

If you want to get really specific, put the length of time you think each visual shot or moment should play. If you're taking clips from the internet, this may help your editor out. It's always good to have a time estimate, because you'd hate to shoot something and have it fall short of the length required. Or just have to cut things if you go too long and then you run the risk of the ad and its story not making sense.

One trick is to read the script aloud a few times at the pace you think makes sense within the commercial. That can give you an estimate for the duration.  

Credit: Gerry Butler
Lastly, if you have a character speaking dialogue -- and you are not using voiceover -- make sure to delineate the name of the speaker, and match that name with how you describe the action in the left column.

Each character should have a first name that starts with a different letter. This helps everyone know who is supposed to be where and cuts back on confusion. 

Credit: Shane Hurlbut

Got questions about scripts for TV commercials? Let us know in the comments. 

I hope this article helps you out on all your side gigs! 

What's next? Everything you need to know about anamorphic lenses

If you've never worked with this unique piece of glass, then click on the link above -- this is the primer for you.     

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