How to Write a 30-second TV Commercial Script

With a TV commercial script, you have to make every word count. Use our free template and the guide below to create yours.

Nobody will want to hang around and watch an advert on the TV if it isn’t engaging or interesting in some way. Think about the TV adverts that you remember. What did you find entertaining, engaging or caught your attention and consider why.

You have to hook the viewer’s interest in a matter of seconds, since all you have is half a minute to encourage them to take action.

Writing for TV commercials is unlike screenwriting, in which you have anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour and a half to impress with your dialogue-writing skills.

The good news is that you can craft excellent TV Ad copy with a template, which should help you to prepare and understand the level of detail required. We’ll take a look at the template first before we move on to the copy.

Download a copy of the TV Script Template, to take a look.

What does a TV commercial script look like?

If you want to write a TV commercial script that’s successful, it’s a good idea to get a feel for what that should look like.

A commercial script can be broken down into the following categories: the heading, the visual column, and the audio column.

To give you a clear idea of what to expect, I’ll go through each category and provide some tips on how to fill them out.

The Heading

For every commercial script, you’ll need to supply important information that pertains to you, the client, and the script.

This is essential as it tells the client everything they need to know about the script you wrote.

  • Client Information: Write down the name of the client and their brand.
  • Personal Information: Put down your name along with some basic contact information such as an email address, just in case the client wants to get in touch. You’ll also need to add a job ID for the project.
  • Script Information: There are several key pieces of information you’ll need to include related to the script. These include the TRT (Total Run Time), date of submission to client, and the draft number.

The Visual Column

The next part of a TV ad commercial script is the visual column, which will be on the left of the template.

In this column, you need to describe – in excruciating detail – everything that happens on screen in your advert.

Anything that you want to capture on-screen needs to be written down in the visual column, and it’s essential to note down how long each visual should last. 

Try to make it as obvious as possible to your client what you’re going for, using clear and descriptive language.

The Audio Column

Finally, the audio column, which will be on the right of the template, is for writing down every instance of sound, music, or dialogue in your commercial.

That means you need to explicitly describe every music track, voice-over line, and sound effect you use.

You should do your best to make sure your audio descriptions align with your visual column descriptions on the page, so the client can see that they go together.

Again, make sure to note down the length of each audio clip you want to use, and for speech, remember to write out the character’s name in capital letters followed by a colon.

A Step-by-Step Guide

Now you have your template ready to fill out; it’s time to think about how you want your commercial to be.

When confronted with a blank page, it can seem like an enormous task to write something down, but this step-by-step guide should help you to hone your ideas and streamline the writing process.

Define the Story

First things first, come up with an idea for a story.

The story needs to include certain elements if it’s to hook the viewer, including a problem with a resolution, with you product or service as the hero and a CTA (Call To Action).

You might find that your first attempt at writing a story for an advert ends up well over 30 seconds, and that’s ok.

Your first draft is always likely to be overelaborate; you just need to get into the habit of simplifying whenever possible until you hit the magic 30-second mark. Think about each element of the dialogue, how it fits and what purpose it serves. This will help you to hone the copy and tighten up the script.

Pick a Theme

A story alone isn’t always enough to sell a product or service; it needs to have an overarching theme too. The theme can be a certain cast of characters or an ongoing style to the commercial that viewers can engage with and build brand recognition.

This isn’t just for the viewer’s entertainment, either, as brands want adverts that will work over time for other products and marketing opportunities.

If you think of any big brand, chances are they have some form of recurring character that spearheads their advertising.

Set the Tone

Hit upon the right tone with your advert, and you’ll make it live on much longer in the viewer’s memory.

If the advert strikes any kind of emotional chord with the viewer, you’ve hit the jackpot.

You don’t always have to go for the funny commercial, and sometimes subverting the narrative and playing with the audience’s expectations can pay off.

Carefully consider the brand, product and service you’re selling and put the target audience at the forefront of your mind when making the decision.

Call to Action

Like any form of marketing, a strong call to action (CTA) is necessary to take the viewer’s interest and convert it to action.

To deliver a CTA that delivers, confirm in advance (this should be supplied in the brief) with your client what action they want the viewer to take after watching the commercial.

For example, if they simply want to boost product sales, then think about how you can inspire the viewer to act on the desire to purchase.

Practical tactics for driving home the CTA include flashing a website address or phone number on the screen, or coming up with a catchy tagline or jingle. Whatever CTA you choose, make sure it is clear and impactful.

FAQ’s:

How many words is a 30 second TV commercial?

A 30-second commercial script usually requires as few as 60 words.

However, the number will depend on how much information you need to get into the commercial and your storytelling approach.

How do you write a TV ad script?

To write a TV ad script for the first time, a TV script template is a good place to start. This will show you the various elements you need to consider when drafting and the required format.

If you’re just practicing, simply complete the audio and visual columns with descriptions of what you want to happen on screen.

How do I use the TV commercial script template?

To use the TV commercial script template, you need to know what to put in the ‘headings,’ ‘audio column’, and ‘visual column’ sections.

Once you have honed your idea and have your draft copy you can enter the information into the corresponding sections of the commercial script template.

Personal and client information goes in the ‘headings’ section, while specific information detailing the commercial goes in the audio and visual columns.

About Gemma Wright

I'm Gemma Wright, co-owner of ProCopyTips and a freelance PR consultant and copywriter. Having worked as a PR Manager for large financial services companies in the UK, I now focus on helping small and growing businesses to thrive through the power of effective communications.

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