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Old 03-27-2016, 04:25 PM   #1
Terri
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Question Writing TV commercials?

Does anyone have any experience/knowledge in writing TV commercials?
I have so many ideas constantly popping up in my head for commercials.

Do screenwriters write TV spots or... copywriters?

Has anyone written TV spots before? How did it come about?
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Old 03-27-2016, 10:29 PM   #2
Mpimentel
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Default Re: Writing TV commercials?

I've written many TV commercials, from beer companies to car dealerships, however let me first preface that with this...

In the Hispanic community I (was) kind'a know as talent, so I had many companies come up to me asking me to do commercials for them. With the bigger companies it would be whoever handles their media that would contact me, not the company itself.

Now, I'm a little touchy with what I appear in (probably why I'm broke), but I pretty much refused to be in commercials I did not write because I have a brand of comedy that I'm known for, and since that's all i have, I want to make sure that is reflected on these commercials... I mean, that is why they hired me, to reach my corner, so I want to make sure I show something cool.

Some examples (these are all online versions, the TV versions obviously have been shorter)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r61s4uoJ78A
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1roMDlWn3Rc
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YiU8zojX39U
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=emqfHn59ENY

There are some where it's simply product placement, in that case I've done skits around the product but that come off as regular skits like so.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RGo_yDUy7Uk

I've done like 20 commercials, and can only speak from that perspective... Where I get to be the writer/director/actor. (I was not the director in maybe 3 of them)

I offer the full version on my youtube channel or my secondary channel, or whatever social media they are willing to pay for, then they cut it down to whatever they need for TV.

So my experience has been with them coming to me. I know that does not help you maybe, but feel free to ask anything about the process.

1. They would contact me, tell me they are interested in working with me.

2. Then I would ask how long they want the commercial for or in what format, what the theme is, what they want, budget, and tell them what I'm ok with doing and not doing and what that budget would include me doing what.

3. Then I write up my idea and send it. They tell me yes, or no, or make adjustments.

4. I write a new one, or adjust old script based on their feedback.

5. I record. Do my thing, work hard to make it successful on my end so they can get their moneys worth and collect.

This i probably not what you are looking for, but that is what I can contribute to this and hopefully it helps a tiny bit.
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Last edited by Mpimentel : 03-28-2016 at 01:53 AM.
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Old 03-29-2016, 05:00 AM   #3
hairingtons
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Default Re: Writing TV commercials?

Quote:
Does anyone have any experience/knowledge in writing TV commercials?
I have so many ideas constantly popping up in my head for commercials.

Do screenwriters write TV spots or... copywriters?

Has anyone written TV spots before? How did it come about?
I work/ed in advertising for the last decade. I started in advertising agencies, now I'm freelance (trying to write screenplays whilst balancing the books still writing ads).

So, generally speaking, it is copywriters who write commercials. They will work with art directors, designers, producers and production companies (a little with directors, but not much) to conceive and then create.

However, a copywriter will also be writing press ads, radio ads, (awful) website copy, (heartbreaking) guidelines, (soul destroying) brochure copy, etc. So it's not just sit down and write TV ads/spots all day.

If you want to do this, most brands (in the UK at least) will work directly with an advertising agency or sometimes with a production company. So the most common way to get the work is to be employed by one of those two.

On the plus side, you can make good money. And it is certainly a vocation in which you can learn a lot about yourself as a writer and to an extent the craft of screenwriting. It is writing ads that led me to pursue screenwriting.

And it's highly, well, commercial! So it also trains you to deal with constant rejection, to be in meetings with money people, execs, producers.

On the down side, it's chock full of nobheads. Starting salary is pathetic. You'll work 20 hour days. It's mostly a very very corporate world. And you have to deal with constant rejection .

(NOTE. As a writer in advertising land, you have a very different relationship with directors and production companies, I think. This is because when you write a script, you are often expected to give much more instructional detail than in a screenplay. e.g - we see this, our hero then does...etc

You know, the kind of directorial stuff you'd get killed for, if you put it in a screenplay. This is because you are satisfying the want of so many different people. Client (brand), creative director (employer), director (who is essentially working for you) ... so it's a different dynamic.)

Last edited by hairingtons : 03-29-2016 at 05:01 AM. Reason: swear word
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Old 03-29-2016, 04:24 PM   #4
Terri
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Default Re: Writing TV commercials?

@Mpimental, sorry you wrote all that. You're right; that's not how it would happen for me, not being a "talent" in any capacity (like a known person... even locally.)

@hairingtons, that's what I needed to know. (I've actually been trying to be a copywriter before I sort of gave up -- poor marketing on my part -- and getting back to trying to make it as a screenwriter)... I have a whole bookshelf filled with copywriting books. Maybe I can find a way.

Do you think writing up some spec commercials for my portfolio would help? I mean as a copywriter, you would have a portfolio anyways to try to get work... so if I'm mainly interested in writing TV spots... I can fill my portfolio with spec TV spots??
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Old 03-29-2016, 09:05 PM   #5
BurOak
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Default Re: Writing TV commercials?

I spent many years as an ad agency copywriter, including finishing up my agency career as a Senior Copywriter at J. Walter Thompson.
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Old 03-30-2016, 05:13 AM   #6
hairingtons
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Default Re: Writing TV commercials?

BurOak - JWT was also one of my haunts.

Terri - Absolutely. The one thing that will get you a job is a portfolio. My advice would be to explode your ideas (wanky adverstising phrase for you there) across a range of different media. If you only have TV ideas in your portfolio, you'll probably make it harder for yourself.

Every creative inside an ad agency will want to make TV ads. But unless you find a very specialist agency then it's most likely that you will have to show that you can also write headlines, body copy, radio, press, etc.

Get a portfolio with at least 6 campaigns. Pick different brands/products from different sectors. Come up with an idea. Then show how you would implement that idea in TV, press, online, social media. That's what agencies are looking for these days.

If you're set on doing it, but really have no idea where to start, drop me a DM. Don't mind going in to a bit more depth for you. Or offering advice.

A good starting point is to get a list of agencies in your area. Find contacts within those agencies, creatives who work there, and ask for a meeting, a chat. Not an interview. Get a sample brief from them. Use those briefs to build a portfolio. And it gives you a reason to go back to the same people and show what you've done with their brief.
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