A beginner’s guide to writing TV commercials

    How to apply

    1. Read through the job description below carefully and ask yourself:
      1. Do you have relevant experience?
      2. Can you meet the deadline or feel confident negotiating it?
      3. Can you meet the budget or feel confident negotiating it?
        If the answers are all ‘YES’ move to step 2.
    2. Send your best possible pitch to the email address included in the job description below. Introduce yourself, sell yourself!
    3. There’s no need to cc us, but of course we’d love to know if you win the job, please tell us in the TCCS Facebook group

    Job application rules and guidelines

    1. Jobs will be posted on this page as they come in.
    2. The TCCS rules still apply:
      1. Please only apply for jobs you’ve had experience in.
      2. Do not apply for every single job – you will ruin the quality of the replies for the job poster and as a consequence, we’re likely to get few jobs posted.
      3. We will be monitoring responses by following up with job posters to assess quality.  If we find that members have been applying for jobs for which they’re not a good fit, their access to the job board will be limited. 

         

    3. Jobs will be open for a maximum of 48 hours, fewer if the enquirer has advised they’ve received enough responses.

      Suggested format for emails:

      Hi Bob.
      I saw your job post on The Clever Copywriting School Job board.

      Reason for applying:
      Name:
      TCCS Directory link: (Annual members only)
      Website:
      Email:

      Phone:

      Thanks
      Your name

       

    Happy pitching and as always, if you have any questions or technical difficulty, please email admin@clevercopywritingschool.com

    JOB DETAILS

    Job status: Open

    Industry:

    Type:

    Deadline:

    Budget:

    Location:

    Brief:

    This post was written by TCCS member, Mark Farrelly

     

    As a copywriter, the first thing to know about writing for TV is it’s a lot different to writing for print or the web. (Or even what you’d write for radio.)

    It’s an audio-visual medium, and so what’s seen is often more important than what’s said.

    And being a broadcast medium, once a TV commercial is aired it’s gone, leaving behind only a residual impression of what it was all about. You can’t watch it again*, or keep it handy so you to refer to it later.

    With the written word, you usually have enough time and enough words to construct an entire story about a product or service. And in doing so you can make a number of points or build an argument.

    But with TV, particularly if you’re writing a 30-second commercial, you can really only have one key message.

    In fact, TV commercials work best when you only try to get one message across. Why? Because when the ad is finished, there’s a good chance people will remember that one message. However if you expect them to remember five things, or even three, you’re going to be disappointed.

     

    The beginning is a very good place to start

     

    When writing a TV commercial, start by helping the client establish the one core message they want people to know. It might be that they’ve:

    • opened a new business or branch
    • launched a new product
    • put on a sale
    • got a special offer for the coming month.

    Whatever it is, try to get them to agree that you’ll only be talking about one thing. This is WHAT you’re going to say and working that out might take 50% of your time. (Pressuring a client to only say one thing instead of five things can be tough. But it will be worth it.)

    Now that you’ve worked out WHAT you’re going to say, the next step is to work out HOW you’re going to say it. Remember, TV is a visual medium. So if you can SHOW something rather than TALK about it you’ll be better off.

    Don’t think of TV as a PowerPoint presentation. While you can put the same words on the screen that are being spoken quite cheaply, it’s not effective advertising unless you’re Harvey Norman. (Or doing other aggressive retail ads.)

    It’s far more effective to demonstrate what your product can do.

    But before you start writing write any words, your ad needs an idea (or ‘concept’).

     

    Common types of TV ads

     

    While every commercial may seem different, they nearly always fall into one category or another. Here are some of the most common ones.

    SLICE OF LIFE – Actors playing out real-life situations, either using the product or talking about using it. (Sadly, the dialogue is often corny. “Oh, Jen. I see you’re using new Bloggo. Tell me why you love it so much.”)

    PRODUCT USE (with voiceover) – Visuals of the product being used (car being driven, holiday being enjoyed, meal being cooked, etc.) But instead of the actors speaking to the camera as they do in the ‘slice of life’ commercials, you hear a spoken voice along with jingle or whatever.

    PRESENTER – Someone (usually attractive) making a sales pitch to the camera. (It may also be a celebrity who uses their fame to ‘endorse’ the product.)

    DEMONSTRATION – Showing what the product can do with a simple, clever or dramatic demonstration. (Laundry products do this all the time to show how their “cleans much better”.)

    SLIDESHOW – Graphics, static images, and words on the screen, with the voiceover basically repeating what you’re seeing. (Think Harvey Norman).

    LOCATION – If your product is a particular location (e.g store, restaurant, theme park, etc.) there’s nothing like being there to see it all.

    STOLEN IDEA – Grabbing footage of something from YouTube, a set of photos or something else that already exists and putting a twist on it. (You’ll need the rights of course.)

     

    Maybe serve it with a twist

     

    Now that you’ve chosen your concept, how about putting a bit of a twist on it to make it fresh and more watchable?

    Could the ‘slice of life’ people all be speaking a different language? Could the roles be reversed – kids dressed as parents, husband dressed as wife, boss dressed as worker – and vice versa?

    Is the presenter upside down? Are they in a wetsuit underwater? Are they standing in a hurricane?

    Is your product demonstration memorable? Years ago someone advertised bulletproof glass by having the presenter speaking behind the glass as someone fired a bullet at them to prove the product worked.

    Now that’s a powerful product demonstration.

     

    Finally, words on paper (or screen)

     

    Now that you’ve chosen your concept, how do you write an actual TV script?

    The simplest way to do it is like the one shown here. The left side describes the vision, and the right side describes the audio. It’s simple, and the best way for your mind to imagine what you’re seeing and hearing at any given time. (You can find templates online).

    You use the vision column to describe what the audience sees, including whether it’s a closeup or a wide shot, how you’re switching to the next scene (cut, slow dissolve, etc.) or whatever. You also include any on-screen graphics as ‘supers’ (images superimposed over the screen).

    On the audio side you write what the voiceover (‘VO’ or ‘Announcer’) or actor (‘100%’) is saying and whether they’re male or female, as well as any sound effects (‘SFX’) or music.

    You work out your timing for the whole script by putting a stopwatch on how long it takes to read the right column OUT LOUD with natural pauses and breaks.

    A tip for presenting TV commercials to clients: Read the script out loud to them. Don’t let them read it because they’ll treat it as written copy and correct your commas. (No one will see the commas. They’ll only hear them as pauses.)

     

    Timing is everything.

     

    It’s critically important to get the word count in your ad right. Most people overwrite. All TV commercials need half a second of silence at the beginning so they don’t come over the top of the previous ad. So, for a 30-second commercial you have 29.5 seconds of audio. That’s about 75 words maximum. Best to go for fewer if you can.

    Don’t rush the audio. Give yourself time. If it’s dialogue (two people speaking to each other), you need more time for the natural gaps and pauses in conversation. So you have even fewer words to play with.

    Ideally you should mention the name of your client or product at least two or three times in a TV commercial, particularly if its new, unknown or never been on TV before. You may also need an important call to action such as “Sale ends Sunday” or “Limited stock, so buy now”. That alone could take up 10-15 seconds of your ad, leaving very little time to get your core message across. Which is why you’ll be able to communicate only one key message.

    Now you have to decide whether people will be talking over the pictures (‘voiceover’ or ‘announcer’) or whether they’re saying stuff as you film them like actors in a movie (‘100%’).

     

    Camera tricks.

     

    The great thing about TV is you can not only reveal things with a camera, you can also mask them. So you can start the ad with people thinking it’s about one thing, then pull out to reveal the presenter is actually standing on top of an elephant or a car, or in a toilet. You can also tilt or pan to show the person they’ve been talking to the entire commercial isn’t who you thought it was.

    You can also do simple special effects. Make people magically appear or disappear. Move through time. Do before and after examples. Speed up time or slow it down.

    Your idea could be based on any of these.

     

    Beware the overlords of CAD

     

    Unlike the unregulated world of the internet, every TV commercial has to be reviewed and approved by a body called the Commercials Acceptance Division (CAD) before going to air. You send them a copy of the ad, they put it through a bunch of rules, and if it passes they give it a CAD number.

    And your ad can’t be aired without one.

    If you have any doubts or you’re a newbie, you can send your script to CAD first to get a pre-ruling. They’ll tell you whether it will be approved, or what changes you’ll need to make to get it approved.

    So there you have it. The first steps in what will hopefully be an exciting time for you: writing your first TV commercial.

    I can’t wait to see it.

    * Ok, so you can actually watch them over and over again if you want.  But few people do. And anyway, that’s not the point.

     

    About Mark Farrelly

    Mark Farrelly is a highly skilled radio and video/TV copywriter. He has extensive career experience working with almost every type of client, in almost every type of industry, with almost every type of product or service. Mark pride’s himself on getting to know your business and market intimately so he can create relevant work that draws on fundamental truths hidden in your product, business or market.

     

    Long description :

    MORE DETAILS

    Contact details:

    Contact Name:

    Contact Phone:

    Contact Email:

    Contact Website:

    Want to be a successful copywriter?

    We help aspiring copywriters build a thriving copywriting business, hone their writing skills, make connections and boost their confidence.

    Copy Shop








    How to make $2000 an hour as a copywriter

    How to apply

    1. Read through the job description below carefully and ask yourself:
      1. Do you have relevant experience?
      2. Can you meet the deadline or feel confident negotiating it?
      3. Can you meet the budget or feel confident negotiating it?
        If the answers are all ‘YES’ move to step 2.
    2. Send your best possible pitch to the email address included in the job description below. Introduce yourself, sell yourself!
    3. There’s no need to cc us, but of course we’d love to know if you win the job, please tell us in the TCCS Facebook group

    Job application rules and guidelines

    1. Jobs will be posted on this page as they come in.
    2. The TCCS rules still apply:
      1. Please only apply for jobs you’ve had experience in.
      2. Do not apply for every single job – you will ruin the quality of the replies for the job poster and as a consequence, we’re likely to get few jobs posted.
      3. We will be monitoring responses by following up with job posters to assess quality.  If we find that members have been applying for jobs for which they’re not a good fit, their access to the job board will be limited. 

         

    3. Jobs will be open for a maximum of 48 hours, fewer if the enquirer has advised they’ve received enough responses.

      Suggested format for emails:

      Hi Bob.
      I saw your job post on The Clever Copywriting School Job board.

      Reason for applying:
      Name:
      TCCS Directory link: (Annual members only)
      Website:
      Email:

      Phone:

      Thanks
      Your name

       

    Happy pitching and as always, if you have any questions or technical difficulty, please email admin@clevercopywritingschool.com

    JOB DETAILS

    Job status: Open

    Industry:

    Type:

    Deadline:

    Budget:

    Location:

    Brief:

    Or, the two essential skills every copywriter needs

    What does it take to be an awesome copywriter?

    • A firm grasp of grammar?
    • A bookshelf full of copywriting books?
    • Or, a lever arch file packed with course notes?

    I’d argue it’s none of these. 

    In this article I’m going to share, what I think, are most important skills a copywriter needs, not just to write well but to guarantee a fabulous income.

     

    But first a little about me

    Unlike many copywriters out there I am not classically trained. I’ve never done a copywriting workshop, an ecourse or a correspondence course.

    Yes, I studied English at Uni, but it was more poetry and plays than paragraphs and proof reading.

    I’m not much of a copywriting book reader either. While many others swear by Bob Bly and his ilk, the closest I’ve gotten to reading about the craft of copywriting is flicking through a dictionary.

     

    So, you may ask, do I deserve to even call myself a copywriter?

    Well yes, I learned at the copywriting coalface – when I switched from my production role into a full time copywriter role. It started at Ogilvy where I was lucky enough to work on some fairly major brands, and then I went on to write copy at several UK agencies, before eventually turning back to production.

    I had several smashing creative partners, some amazing teams to work with and a few clever and insightful Creative Directors (it has to be said many creative directors can be a touch painful to work with – so I got lucky).

    I learned to:

    • Work under pressure.
    • Integrate the client brief
    • Ask the tough questions
    • Pull creative concepts out of my butt crack

    I also learned to edit, proof, perfect, define, expand, drill down, negotiate, take criticism, work with others, and brainstorm like a master.

    So yes, I learned a heap of things in these roles but I still don’t think that any of these are essential to developing copywriting skills.

    In fact I believe it was when I was a lowly receptionist, working for a pittance in some god-awful National Health Service office that I discover this one vital skill.

    It was when I was typing up those endlessly dull memos (this was pre emails) and reports that I honed my copywriting craft.

     

    You see I think the most important copywriting skill is this…

    You need to type fast.

    Yep, that’s it.

    Disappointed?

    Don’t be. Let me explain.

    My typing speed currently stands at around 90 wpm.

    Don’t believe me? Here’s a graphic to prove this.

    Kate Toon Typing Speed

    This means that when I’m on the ball I can type up a 400-word page in around 6 minutes.

     

    What’s your speed?

    If you’re not sure what you’re typing speed is you can take the test below:

    Psst: If the test isn’t showing up- just head here to complete it.

    No, I don’t charge by the word, I charge a fixed price per page, per website or per job.

    But let’s do the maths: If an average web page is 400 words, and you’re charging say $200ish per page – well that 90 wpm typing speed means you’re making around $2000 an hour.

    Let me repeat. That’s $2000 an hour!

    If I was good at sums I’d tell you based on that, what you could earn in a day, a week or a year. But I’m a words person, so you’ll have to work it out yourself.

    Okay, okay. I know that’s ridiculous.

    Those 6 minutes don’t take into account: briefing, reading, thinking, editing and proofing time.

    They don’t factor in the admin, making cups of tea, walking the dog or putting a load of washing in.

    But you see here’s the trick.

    Along with typing fast the other skill I think a copywriter needs is the ability to cut the crap and get the hell on with it.

    In my opinion too many writers spend too much time faffing about. They’re wasting time stressing about perfecting the perfect brand message, debate the quintessential tone of voice, researching a zillion competitor websites, and asking the client 9087 questions.

    They fret that they’re not good enough, they whine about writers block, they struggle to find motivation and inspiration and determination. They fanny around on social media, they chat in forums and they clean the bathroom. They do anything to avoid actually writing.

     

    You see after being able to type like a maniac the next skill a copywriter needs is to get stuck in.

    It’s a principle a lot of good writers use.

    (I know this ‘cos I was talking to Glenn Murray just the other day and he told me so.)

    When I get a new project, of course I ask questions, of course I do a little research and of course I grab a giant coffee and have a wee before I start.

    But then, then people I WRITE.

    I take that blank page and I write all over it.

    I write bullets, I write snippets, I write random verbs, quotes, thoughts, ideas, headlines, bullets and even the occasional full sentence.

    I write whatever comes into my head and I write it FAST.

    I don’t second-guess myself, I don’t edit, and heck I don’t even spell check. I just write. Whatever spews forth out of my cerebellum ends up on the page.

    And that super fast typing speed means I can type as fast as I think – almost, I think my brain is more like 120 words per minute – or at least that’s what my husband says.

    I get it down and I get it done.

    I can polish off a first draft of a 10 page website in a couple of hours.

    Yes it’s messy, even a bit crap. But crap and written down is better than perfect and still in your brain.

    I have the raw material on the page and the whole white page horror is dissipated.

    And now the much easier process of polishing and editing can begin.

    So that’s it people.

    • LEARN TO TYPE.
    • GET STUCK IN.

    Two skills every copywriter needs to have.

    And yes, I know I know, it was a terribly click baity title. And I know that noone could really type so fast and write so well they’d earn $2000 an hour. But I hope you still learned a thing, or two.

    Once you do know your rates why not create your own Copywriting Rate card?

     

    Over to you

    What do you think is the most important skill a copywriter needs? And what, come on tell me, is your typing speed!

    Long description :

    MORE DETAILS

    Contact details:

    Contact Name:

    Contact Phone:

    Contact Email:

    Contact Website:

    Want to be a successful copywriter?

    We help aspiring copywriters build a thriving copywriting business, hone their writing skills, make connections and boost their confidence.

    Copy Shop








    2015 FREELANCE COPYWRITER SURVEY

    How to apply

    1. Read through the job description below carefully and ask yourself:
      1. Do you have relevant experience?
      2. Can you meet the deadline or feel confident negotiating it?
      3. Can you meet the budget or feel confident negotiating it?
        If the answers are all ‘YES’ move to step 2.
    2. Send your best possible pitch to the email address included in the job description below. Introduce yourself, sell yourself!
    3. There’s no need to cc us, but of course we’d love to know if you win the job, please tell us in the TCCS Facebook group

    Job application rules and guidelines

    1. Jobs will be posted on this page as they come in.
    2. The TCCS rules still apply:
      1. Please only apply for jobs you’ve had experience in.
      2. Do not apply for every single job – you will ruin the quality of the replies for the job poster and as a consequence, we’re likely to get few jobs posted.
      3. We will be monitoring responses by following up with job posters to assess quality.  If we find that members have been applying for jobs for which they’re not a good fit, their access to the job board will be limited. 

         

    3. Jobs will be open for a maximum of 48 hours, fewer if the enquirer has advised they’ve received enough responses.

      Suggested format for emails:

      Hi Bob.
      I saw your job post on The Clever Copywriting School Job board.

      Reason for applying:
      Name:
      TCCS Directory link: (Annual members only)
      Website:
      Email:

      Phone:

      Thanks
      Your name

       

    Happy pitching and as always, if you have any questions or technical difficulty, please email admin@clevercopywritingschool.com

    JOB DETAILS

    Job status: Open

    Industry:

    Type:

    Deadline:

    Budget:

    Location:

    Brief:

    A few months ago, we launched an anonymous Freelance Copywriter Survey to gauge how rates, working hours and challenges varied around the world.

     

     

    We’re now (finally) ready to publish the results.

    We had 97 submissions from all over the world.

    Copywriter survey map

     

    The majority of respondents were from Australia, but we also had submissions from Canada, Costa Rica, Croatia, England, Germany, Italy, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Scotland USA and the UK.

    The majority of respondents (68%) were female.

    Copywriting survey male female

    Most respondents (77.3%) been a copywriter for less than 6 years.

    how long have you been copywriting

    The split between full time and part time was fairly even.

    Copywriters part time full time

    Most copywriters (70.1%) charged a mix of hourly and fixed-price rates.

     copywriting fixed rate

    Most copywriters (79.3%) charge between $40 and $120 per hour.

    copywriting hourly rate

    Over half of copywriters (57.8%) worked on average between 11 and 40 hours each week.

    Copywriters average hours

    The majority of copywriters (67.7%) felt that only 31% to 70% of their time was billable.

    copywriters billable time

    38.1% of copywriters earned under $10k (after tax) in their first year.

    International figures converted into AU dollars.

     

    Copywriting earnings first year

    Only 7.5% of copywriters are earning over $150k a year (after tax) in their 5th year.

    International figures converted into AU dollars.

    Copywriting earnings fifth year

    The majority of copywriters (62.9%) work mainly for small or medium-sized businesses.

    copywriting clients

    Copywriters regularly work on jobs involving writing website copy (83.5%).

    copywriting work types

     

    Copywriters mostly found clients via word of mouth from previous clients or friends (55.7%).

    Finding copywriting clients

    Over half of copywriters (57.7%) have no formal training.

    copywriting training types

    Of those who had taken training, 38.1% chose ecourses and/or webinars.

    copywriting training types

    37.1% of copywriters chose freelancing for the freedom it gave them.

    Why I became a copywriter

     

     

    Other answers here included:

    • All of the above
    • I wanted to leave IT
    • I love writing
    • I lost my job
    • The job market sucks
    • To have a career I enjoy
    • To stop losing my personality in the corporate world
    • Wife told me to
    • To make money while building my online business
    • Got preggers

     

    “If I weren’t’ a copywriter I’d be  …”

    • A Fiction writer
    • A CEO
    • A Chef
    • A Beekeeper
    • A Belly dancing astronaut
    • A Broke travel writer
    • A Designer
    • An Artist
    • A Horticulturist
    • A Journalist
    • A Lawyer
    • A Musician
    • A Painter
    • A Drum kit master
    • A Psychologist
    • A Brand Manager
    • A Sommelier
    • A Surfboard shaper
    • A Successful author
    • A Zoo keeper
    • The Australian Jackie Chan
    • An ESL teacher
    • An IT support engineer
    • An Antiques dealer
    • Broke
    • A Barista
    • Retired
    • The Stage Manager at the Albert Hall
    • A Web developer
    • Working in sales
    • A Comedian
    • An Underwater photojournalist
    • A Yoga teacher
    • A Private investigator
    • A Psychologist
    • Very poor

     

     

    FREELANCE COPYWRITER SURVEY 2015 (PDF 44 pages, 44KB).

    Thanks to all those who took part in this year’s survey. We hope you found the results useful. I would love it if you would share this post.

    [contactme]

    Long description :

    MORE DETAILS

    Contact details:

    Contact Name:

    Contact Phone:

    Contact Email:

    Contact Website:

    Want to be a successful copywriter?

    We help aspiring copywriters build a thriving copywriting business, hone their writing skills, make connections and boost their confidence.

    Copy Shop