How to Shoot Your Own Commercial

Here's what you need to know to broadcast your message on TV or online

Camera man filming

 Erik Isakson/Getty Images

Making a good commercial is all about crafting a message that speaks to potential customers and provokes the desired action while staying within the limits of your video skills and software.

Important Considerations

Before producing your commercial, you must answer several important questions that are common—and crucial—to crafting any successful promotional material.

What's the Message of Your Commercial?

Define exactly what your commercial will be about. Is your commercial promoting your business in general? Or is it focused on a particular product or event?

Because commercials need to be short, focus on one topic per ad, instead of trying to fit in too much at once. If you want to promote multiple products or services, create a series of commercials that are produced in the same way but that each features a single subject.

Who Is Your Audience?

Know your target market: their age, their viewing habits, their buying preferences, and whatever else some diligent research can uncover. Even the best-produced commercial will fail if your potential customers don't see it, or if the people who do see it aren't likely to use such a service or product. Failure at this juncture can mean wasted time and money.

businessman is working from home office analyzing market research statistics.
 

What's the Story of Your Commercial?

This is the creative part of your project: brainstorming your commercial's concept. If your commercial is destined for TV, you generally have only 15-30 seconds. Packing your message into a tight timespan engagingly can be a challenge. Humor, surprise, drama, and emotion are a few of the tools to consider here to pull your audience in. Above all, though, you must maintain a tight focus on your message, audience, and goal. Keep your commercial as clear as possible.

How to Brainstorm Art Ideas with a Mindmap
Marion Boddy-Evans

For a low-budget commercial, use stock footage, photographs, simple graphics, and voice-over. Many commercials on TV are no more complex than this. If you have decent video skills, you might use a live spokesperson or actors and shoot B-roll and action shots.

The best way to come up with story ideas is to watch other commercials. Look at TV ads and think about how they were made and how effective they are. After some time passes, do you remember the company, service, or product that was advertised or just some random element?

What Do You Want Your Audience to Do?

Before you begin production, decide on a call to action. The call to action is the part of your story that tells your audience what you want them to do. Do you want them to call, email, visit your website, or be aware of an issue? Everything else of your commercial should be oriented toward the goal of getting your viewer to act, or at least, remember.

Script Your Commercial

If your commercial is destined for TV, your script must be exact in timing so nothing gets cut off, and that means every word in your script is crucial.

Use a page with four columns—one each for the time, audio, video, and graphics. Include a few seconds at the end of your script to include your call to action.

Include your logo and contact information on the screen for at least a few seconds.

Record Your Commercial

After you finalize your script, you're ready to shoot your commercial. The visual aspect is important, but good audio and light are essential, too. Ensure that your setting is appealing and professional-looking, and keep the background free of clutter and non-essential visual distraction. Just as every word in your script must carry its weight, every visual and audio element must work to convey your overall message.

Business people shooting video tutorial
Hero Images / Getty Images

Go for the highest production values your budget, skill, equipment, and time allow. Check out these video-recording tips beforehand.

Edit Your Commercial

If you stuck to the script during shooting, editing should be easy. For simple commercials, iMovie, Movie Maker, or an online editing app might be enough to get the project done. Otherwise, you'll want an intermediate or professional video-editing software.

Avoid copyright violations by using only properly licensed stock music, graphics, and footage in your editing.

Show Your Commercial

Now, your challenge is to get your commercial seen. The traditional route is to buy airtime on television. People consume so much content on their computers and phones, however, that you should consider running your commercial online. You can buy online video ad space through Google and other providers.

Another option is running your commercial for free on YouTube and other video websites. This way, you avoid traditional time and structural limits, and you're free to experiment with different types of marketing videos.

YouTube is also a great place to test different types of commercials, and see what resonates. You can also extend the life of your commercial by showing behind-the-scenes footage and bloopers on your YouTube channel.