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How to Write Killer Commercial Scripts - woman types on her laptop
How to Write Killer Commercial Scripts - woman types on her laptop
Alex Mcomie 107x107
Feb 29, 2024

How to Write Killer Commercial Scripts

You’ve probably heard that we see thousands (or tens of thousands) of ads every day.

That’s a bit of an exaggeration — the real figure is probably in the hundreds.

Still, standing out from the noise is one of the most complicated aspects of contemporary marketing.

Too many radio and TV commercials rely on generic, worn-out tropes that don’t do enough to get people interested.

In this article, we’ll give you some tips to develop more effective ads that can actually hold the audience’s attention.

We’ll also explain how to find a voice actor who can add value to your brand.

While every organization is different, these tactics will help almost any brand optimize their commercials and achieve their marketing goals.


Start from a Clear Message

How to Write Killer Commercial Scripts - typewriter with sheet that says Be Amazing

Commercials give you a limited amount of time to communicate a message that your audience will remember.

With that in mind, the core brand message should be front and center in every commercial.

If you’re running an ad for Black Friday sales, you’ll need to include the discounts and any notable products that are on sale.

At the same time, you also need to sell your brand on a psychological level.

Nobody is perfectly logical, and consumers generally make purchase decisions based on emotions rather than cold analytics.

By the end of the ad, your viewers or listeners should have positive association with your brand image, mission, and values.

Remember that the message doesn’t always need to be explicitly written into the script.

Being too explicit with your messaging may make the ad seem too obvious and predictable.

Esurance, for example, made a big advertising splash by hiring The Office star John Krasinki for their commercial voice overs.

They leveraged his existing reputation and persona to lend their brand more credibility, and it aligned perfectly with their core messages.

The script is written in a simple, casual tone that fits his character and highlights the key benefits of Esurance in a limited word count.

While not all brands can hire celebrity voice actors, this example demonstrates the importance of matching your script and voice actors to your brand’s overall message.


Keep it Concise

How to Write Killer Commercial Scripts - woman writes on sheet of paper

Every commercial needs some creativity and flair to the final product, but you probably won’t have time to stray very far from the core message.

This is especially true in 2024, with short-form ads becoming more common on YouTube and other online platforms.

It can be incredibly tricky to develop effective content for a 15-second (or shorter) ad slot.

Remember that customers will have the opportunity to learn more about your brand if they choose to engage.

The ad itself should be focused on getting their attention so that they want to learn more.


What About Word Count?

The length of the ad slot will determine how many words you can fit into your script.

In general, voice actors will say about 100-150 words per minute.

Naturally, this number will vary dramatically depending on their speaking style as well as the content of your ad.

Just because a voice actor can read out the entire script in time doesn’t mean they should.

It’s often better to cut extraneous content entirely so that you can focus more on the main points.

A rushed or hurried tone will turn viewers off and negate any benefit of a longer script.

As demonstrated above, a leisurely pace can be highly effective, and your audience can only absorb a certain amount of information in a single ad.

Some of the most effective ads use almost no words at all — less is often more when it comes to commercials.

The famous “No Words” NHL commercial from 2010 illustrates the impossibility of using words to describe certain emotions.


Anticipate Questions and Concerns

How to Write Killer Commercial Scripts - woman in an audience asks a question

Unless you work for a major brand, your commercial audience probably won’t be very familiar with you.

Since commercials only travel in one direction, you need to proactively cover any questions viewers may have.

First, consider what a lead might be interested in.

This starts with the basics:

  • Your products or services
  • Why you’re better than the alternatives
  • Any specific call to action such as a new product, special discount, or exclusive content

You should have these core takeaways in mind before you start writing the script.

The YouTube Premium ad below illustrates how to build a commercial around anticipated questions and concerns.

In just a few seconds, it highlights one of the platform’s key features: playing audio while the app is closed.

Amanda’s voice over provides a bright, lighthearted tone that aligns with the simple message.

This provides a perfect answer to the question “why should I switch to YouTube Premium” without any unnecessary details.


Commercials Don’t Always Have to Be Funny

How to Write Killer Commercial Scripts - dog wears novelty nose and glasses

We’ve all seen surprisingly clever commercials, but humor doesn’t always come off as intended.

In some cases, it can be a crutch that marketers rely on when they don’t have any better ideas.

Think about it.

For every funny ad that’s genuinely well-written, dozens more fall flat.

Keep in mind that an ad can have a handful of jokes or puns without being too reliant on humor.

Overwriting is one of the most common mistakes in video and radio ads.

It’s more likely to turn viewers and listeners away than it is to actually attract their interest.

You don’t need incredible jokes or cutting-edge effects to make a great commercial.

The Quizno’s rat commercial is one of the best-known examples of a funny ad that backfired.

Again, humor can be effective when used in the right ways, but it can also be boring or even grating.


Run a Table Read in Advance

Writing a script down on paper is one thing, but hearing how it sounds out loud is another.

It’s easy to assume your script is golden just because it reads well silently.

Make sure to do at least one table read and see how the script flows when it’s being read by a real voice actor.

This will help you notice any awkward moments or pauses that could hurt the ad’s pacing.

Keep in mind that your script needs to include directions including set, wardrobe, and shot changes along with the voice over script.

Every word and visual detail should be scripted and rehearsed before you begin recording.


Focus on Concrete Benefits

How to Write Killer Commercial Scripts - woman looks at clipboard

Another common mistake is focusing on the brand itself rather than what it means to viewers.

It’s crucial to recognize the distinction between features and benefits.

The average user isn’t likely to understand the difference between a computer with 8 GB of RAM and one with 16.

Twice as much RAM sounds good, but it won’t connect unless you explain how it will improve their experience.

Rather than just showing the RAM difference itself, manufacturer might show side-by-side video of each one loading.

Cutting loading times by 50% is an easier sell than simply doubling the technical specifications.

With that in mind, you should start by thinking about what the features mean for them.

The Sennheiser commercial below is an outstanding example of covering features in relation to their associated benefits.

For example, it explains that the “triple microphone array” leads to “excellent speech clarity” rather than simply highlighting the array itself.

It also covers a number of additional perks including noise cancellation, touchpad controls, and a smart pause option.

These details underline the reasons to switch to the Sennheiser PXC 550-II, and the sleek product shots match the brand’s luxury image.


Final Thoughts

Writing and formatting commercial scripts is more complicated than it sounds.

Effective video and audio advertising depends on expertise at every step of the process.

You’ll need professional script writers, talented editors, and engaging voice actors to create a compelling final product.

These tips will help you optimize your approach and craft ads that resonate with your target audience.


Did you like this article? Have any questions? Please feel free to comment below.

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