One important thing to remember is that a TV commercial has many more variables than a print or radio ad. This means that there is much more that can go wrong. It is important to decide, during early planning stages, what the job positions for the ad will be (art directors, copywriters, video technicians, etc.), and who will fulfill each one.

To make a rough draft of the ad, storyboards or animatics are used. (Animatics are like an animated storyboard.)

The three stages of making a TV ad are: Planning, Production, and Post-production.



The six types of TV commercials are Slice, Talking Person, Demo, Visual, Graphic Collage, and Combination.

The Slice, or "Slice of Life", is a dramatization (story). To make an effective Slice, create a situation where the product plays a key role. Make it simple and interesting.

A Talking Person presents a spokesman for the brand (e.g. Jack-in-the-Box's Jack, or Wendy's Dave Thomas). A testimonial commercial is a type of Talking Person.

A Demo is a presentation of the product's usage. Typical Demo types are:

  • Side-by-Side: The product is pitted against its competition (or imaginary competition, such as "Brand X").
  • Before and After: Demonstration of the problem and solution.
  • Product Performance: An exhibition of the product's strengths.
  • In-Use and New-Use: In-Use shows the product being used. New-Use shows a new use for an old product.
  • Torture Test: An (often humorous) demonstration of the product's durability.

A torture test is an "extreme" demonstration of a product performance, not durability.

The Visual primarily uses imagery to sell the product.

Graphic Collage is a postmodern style often used in music videos. It appropriates audio and video, and may employ supers (super-imposition).

A Combination uses two or more of these types together.



Planning steps:

  1. Start at the end. Decide what the ad's final impact will be.
  2. Plan visuals.
  3. Plan movement.

The beginning provides context. Common mistakes encountered here are overwriting, audience confusion, and irrelevancy.

The middle connects the target to the brand. Here is where the support is given. This part requires extreme clarity.

The end presents the ad's punchline, or final thought. A logo or other brand identification is typically displayed here.

Make pre-production notes. Things to include are

  • Location (Where will the footage be shot?)
  • Talent (Who will be acting? Providing music?)
  • Special effects (if any)
  • Props (if any)
  • Bids & budgeting (How will we pay for this?)
  • Scheduling

Profiling consumers: Know your audience. Be careful not to offend them!

You're not just selling a product, you're selling an image.

Extreme close-ups of the product are used to create a sense of intimacy.

Sometimes conceptual art (storyboards, etc.) turn out to be unrealistic (such as a winking dog in a dog food commercial). This is called the "Winking Dog Syndrome". The question to ask is: "Can the final cut meet the expectations made by the design?"

A similar problem, the "Rubber Pencil", comes about when impossible proportions or angles create problems with the ad during production. It is important to resolve all these issues during the planning stages.



Make a "shot list." Make sure that only one person talks to the director, to avoid confusion.



Audio post-production involves "direct voice" (synchronized to video) or "voice tracks" (such as announcers), as well as music and sound effects.

Video post-production includes usage of animation and addition of stock footage. Pre-scoring is preparing audio before video, and post-scoring is preparing audio after video.

Direct Response Television (DRTV) often takes the form of infomercials.