Every good TV spot starts off the same way–with a good script.  Before you find the perfect actor, or display your phone number with amazing motion graphics, you first need to write it down.  Some may feel they are above TV scripts…”I did this before and I know what I’m doing!”, “It’s just a simple TV spot,”…I’ve basically heard it all, but what most don’t realize is that a well written script will save you time, and more importantly, money. It’s always cheaper to make a change on paper rather than in the studio.

If you are scared of the “well written script”, or any script for that mater, don’t worry. I will take the fear out of this process.  Here you will find a template for a basic TV Commercial Script:

This TV Script template is in its most basic form, and will help you communicate with your production company and air time provider.

If you like to see a finished script go to “What Makes a Good TV Commercial Script” where you will find a PDF copy of a TV script approved for production.

There are 3 parts to the TV script: identifying parts, the script itself, and a word key.

At the very top, you identify your TV script (like a title page).  Provide the company name,  then the TV spot title, and be sure to make it short and sweet.  Long titles will make it difficult for TV stations to identify your TV spot.  Next is the length of your spot. The most typical length is 30 seconds, then 15, and then 60 seconds. Finally, the Spot ID#, which is a number often assigned by the production company, and used to identify your TV spot.  You may develop your own method to keep track of your advertising, for example, “CN04141001,” stands for Company Name April 14th 2010 Spot 01.  All of these organized details will help when communicating with your production company, and will also help when it comes time to buy advertising time.

At the bottom of the document I provided some key terms used in the industry that will make you sound like a pro and help you in the writing process.  When writing, first identify the element with the help of these key words, and then describe it.  For example, if you need to include a legal statement with your promotion, it might read as: “Disclaimer: See your local store for details. Not available in NY, NJ and CA.”.  If you’re not sure, then state that: “Music: Not sure, maybe slow soft rock”.  The list provided is a basic vocabulary that should provide a good start.

In the middle of the document you will find the script itself, divided into two sections.  On the left side is the video portion, and on the right is the audio, each with corresponding numbers.  Lets start with the audio. Write the copy for the voice artist/on-screen actor to read.  If you have multiple actors, identify them (i.e. simple man 1, woman 1, boy 2).  You can leave notes or directions in parenthesis.  Also, provide a description of the music or sound effects to be used in the commercial. Giving the reader a sense of atmosphere helps highlight the emotions in your writing.

Now for the fun part–the video portion (I may be biased).  With the help of the corresponding numbers, the text describes what is happening on-screen during each audio portion.  Everyone has a hard time describing visual elements with words, just take it step by step, and try not to get discouraged.  First, describe the images you want to see. Maybe when the VO reads “the hot summer days are here!” you want “image: hot summer sun”, or you would rather just convey the idea with color so you can leave room for graphics. If this is the case, just type “image: red background, GFX: HOT SUMMER SAVINGS”.

If you want to show an image of your costumers enjoying your product, maybe write something such as: “image: BMW 650i Convertible, top down, outside”.  The script needs to be specific enough so the idea is conveyed, but broad enough so the artistic integrity of your production team is not limited by the written word.  It’s important to note that the most useful part of a script is that it really helps the designer map out the appropriate visual cues and graphics that will best convey the message of the spot.

Hopefully the basic scripts I’ve provided will help make your life a bit simpler, and your TV spots a lot better.  Just remember, it’s always cheaper to change it on paper, and whether you’re doing commercials or film, nothing beats a well written script.