Here's How You Should Write a TV Commercial

Credit: AMC
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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3 Comments

Great blog post - thanks! I'm working on my first screenplay and really need some money to make ends meet. I have a couple of GREAT ideas for TV commercials: one for Progressive Insurance (fell asleep with your sign).. the other for Allstate (Mayhem). How do I figure out who where when how to submit my spec scripts for consideration? Any help you can provide would be appreciated. -Rob

November 18, 2020 at 1:10PM

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There really isn't a way to submit spec commercials like there is for screenplays. Agencies and clients are a pretty tight knit group, and you would have to have a relationship with a creative director who would ask you to freelance and submit ideas. Clients, unfortunately, are rarely looking for general scripts, no matter how good. Rather, they are looking for very specific scripts that solve a business problem, which they brief agencies to help them with, who then create advertising campaigns in response. If you wanted to be considered for work, you would need to create a spec portfolio of scripts/ads, and then submit that portfolio to agencies and creative directors.

January 30, 2021 at 7:47PM

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I've worked in advertising for quite awhile now, at agencies and on set, and I've never seen a script formatted like this. Maybe you would do this if you needed to create a shooting script, maybe. Google "the art of deck making" and click on the first link for a better example.

January 30, 2021 at 7:37PM

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