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How to Make an Effective Commercial

Written by MasterClass

Last updated: Nov 8, 2020 • 3 min read

You’ve got 30 seconds to sell someone on a product: What do you say, and how do you say it? These are the ultimate questions when it comes to crafting a good advertisement—whether you want to write a simple promo or a standout Super Bowl ad.



Jeff Goodby & Rich Silverstein Teach Advertising and CreativityJeff Goodby & Rich Silverstein Teach Advertising and Creativity

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4 Qualities of a Good Commercial

A great commercial will have the following characteristics:

  1. A good (and simple) story: A good storyline has a beginning, a middle, and an end with tension and resolution. Commercials that use the principles of good storytelling will immediately capture the audience’s attention and elicit some sort of emotional reaction. In a two-hour movie, a director has plenty of time to hit and complete all of these steps. It’s a little harder when it comes to a 30-second spot, but it’s not impossible—just remember to keep it simple when storyboarding.
  2. The right tone: It’s easy to think that a great video is always the one with the best entertainment value—for instance, a hilarious video ad with a catchy jingle—but if it’s not the right tone for the brand, it still may not succeed. When making an ad—whether it’s an online ad or TV commercial—you need to keep the brand’s tone in mind. Are they edgy, serious, peaceful, or quirky? That’s the tone you want to strike in your commercial.
  3. A recurring theme: The best commercials aren’t just standalone ideas; they’re full-on ad campaigns that include followup commercials to continue the story and develop the theme or characters. For example, Budweiser’s series of ads that featured the iconic frogs Bud, Weis, and Er, and later on the lizards Frank and Louie. Marketing campaigns like these are usually effective TV ads because they build up memorable characters over many promotional videos and generate considerable brand awareness.
  4. A call to action: It’s vital to know exactly what your marketing video’s call to action is before you ever start drafting. What does the company want people to do after they see the television commercial? For a small business, maybe your goal is just to raise awareness of the brand or give potential consumers the company’s contact information (for instance, a phone number or web URL). If you’re working with a large and well-known corporation, your focus may be on introducing a new tagline. Calls to action depend on the company’s target audience (also called the target market); who are their potential customers, and what would they respond to most in a video commercial?

How to Make a Commercial in 4 Steps

Ready to break into TV advertising? Here are the basic steps you’ll need to follow to create a commercial:

  1. Start with the ending. In order to make the road map for a compelling commercial, you need to know where you’re ultimately going to end up. Starting with the ending is a great way to make that easier—that way, you know what the commercial’s payoff will be. Then you can build everything around delivering on that payoff. You have a finite amount of time, which means that the development of the narrative is entirely built to serve the conclusion.
  2. Plan everything down to the second. Commercial videos’ air time usually isn’t longer than sixty seconds. When it comes to spots like Super Bowl commercials, every second is extremely expensive—so you don’t want to waste a moment. Make sure that you plan out the entire video from start to finish during preproduction. Create a diagram or storyboard that shows exactly where dialogue and action occur. Preparation is crucial, and keeping your narrative streamlined will help get your point across in a short amount of time.
  3. Shoot the commercial. Video production is a technical field, and the easiest way to end up with professional video content is to hire a production company (or an ad agency or creative director with an in-house production team). A good production company will come with a team of professionals tailored to your needs, and they’ll handle finding professional actors, a camera crew, and animators. Audiences can tell when a video was made with high production value, and they’ll respond better to professional-looking TV spots.
  4. Edit the commercial. In postproduction, the shot footage needs to be edited down to the right length. Often, production teams will have video editors armed with professional editing software to get the finished product.
Jeff Goodby & Rich Silverstein Teach Advertising and Creativity
Jeff Goodby & Rich Silverstein Teach Advertising and Creativity
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