Writing Ads for TV is Still All About Strategy

I say all the time that creating a print ad is so much harder than creating a TV spot. In print, you have 1.2 seconds to nail your point before a page is turned or passed by. With TV, you get 30 seconds. That’s a lifetime to sell something. What is difficult in writing for TV is the temptation to let the bells and whistles of today’s technology take the lead – let the tail wag the dog.

TelevisionIf technology furthers the strategy, use it. But strategy is where the TV commercial begins. Which leads me to the other difficulty in writing for TV. All our lives we’ve learned to tell stories using words. Now you need to tell them with images, with words merely supporting them. So how do we use visuals in strategy to begin?

The big idea. What’s the main message that persuades and makes the product stand out? This is marketing 101. Determining a product’s USP.

The benefit. What is the benefit of the big idea and whom does it benefit? You have your product’s USP determined and you now need to think about how your target audience will want to hear it and what they’ll be interested in seeing.

Create visual elements that stick. Here’s where the personality of the brand shines bright. If the tone of your brand is rugged, dramatize that toughness with like imagery, typography, movement and sound.

Now you take that visual and tone to script. This is what we call a “treatment.” Use a narrative to tell the story. Much like a Cliff’s Notes version or the basic plot line of what happens. e.g. “Guy walks into a bar, gal comes over and says…” Once you’re happy with the scenario, put it in script form. Once you’re finally happy with your script, you’re off to storyboards. Now you can put technology to work for your script. The dog is now wagging the tail and strategy has not been sacrificed for the sake of cool effects.

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