This is a beginner’s guide on questions to ask yourself before approaching a commercial. We’ll discuss topics such as costs, how you get started and how to finish strong.

Why are you going to make a commercial?

The most important question here. The general notion is to increase sales or brand awareness. But how are you going about this? Here are some key metrics driving most ads:

  • Increase brand awareness
  • Explain a new startup, product or app
  • Solicit a new product line
  • Increase existing product line awareness
  • Offering a deal for a particular season or campaign

You can choose one of these or make your own mission vision behind your commercial.


Where are you showing this commercial?

Often times, the word ‘commercial’ is associated with TV and the word ‘video’ is associated with online. In our opinion at Illuminate, they are interchangeable. A commercial still comes out as a digital video when production is finished, just the same as a social media video. So your possible answers could include:

  • Broadcast (TV, etc)
  • Online – articles and re-marketing opportunities
  • YouTube Ads
  • Social Media Channels
    • Facebook
    • Instagram
    • Twitter
    • Snapchat
  • Other
  • Internal (i.e. circulating a video to encourage use of a new business department or function)

Perhaps you want to target a particular demographic based on your original goal. Let’s say you want to solicit a new product line or service. Who buys this product? What kind of social media channel do they use? Are they searching when they are shopping for your particular product or do they watch a lot of TV? Are they reading articles about it? If you’re not ready with data to get too far into targeting, producing a broader-scoped online commercial is still a good idea. It will still attract viewers and sales, and you can utilize that data to better understand your target audience for future campaigns.


When are you showing this commercial?

Stack the odds in your favor by considering and planning for holidays, sporting events, exhibit and trade shows, or business ‘seasons’ (i.e. as marketing a tax software product right before tax season). You can target the geographic location that might be affected by this so that the right people see the right ad at the right time.


What is this commercial about?

Whether you have an ad agency writing the commercial for you, or your team is making the script, be sure you know exactly what your commercial video is about before committing to anything else. The ‘scope of work’ and storyboard (or script) is going to be the backbone of your project.

If you don’t already have an idea or don’t want to work with an agency, some video production companies will pitch ideas if prompted. Note that not all ideas and pitches are equal. Often times it is best to arrange the budget first and then come up with a suitable idea or storyline.


How much are you going to spend?

Budgets need to be decided early on, even before you begin choosing a video production company. Pitting multiple video production companies against each other based on price is just a race to the bottom. Have a budget in mind and focus judgment on more important aspects such as creativity, skill, quality, customer service and experience.

Cost estimating per finished minute of video is an old but usable tactic. Commercial videos can cost anywhere from $50 to $50,000 of finished minute. Even more if you’re wanting a spot on the Super Bowl. Not sure how much to spend? Consider what type of business you are in – B2B, B2C, etc. CMO released a survey of marketing budgets based on business type. Typically, the spend is between 8 and 15 percent of revenues. Often times ad agencies will set up budgets for you. If you’re without one, don’t let a particular services company pressure you into spending your entire marketing budget on a single type of service (video, PR, social media, website development, etc). Because video is such a large percentage of


How are you going to produce it?

If you’re not having a commercial video production company take the reigns, there are other ways you can go about it. Perhaps you’re having the internal media team produce the video, or you want to approach a DIY method where you source pieces of the video. Or maybe you even want to do it all yourself. While we recommend turning it over to the professionals, we still have plenty of tips on how to do it otherwise. Below are some links to our approach on each.

  • Choosing a professional video production company.
  • Working with your internal media team to make a commercial.
  • Producing your own commercial video.


Keeping scope creep from eating your commercial alive.

Differing ideas and opinions throughout the approval process can eat away at your vision, budget and time. Before you know it, six weeks can pass and your commercial could only be half way done! We’ve had to avoid this many times with complex commercials. Our best advice is to develop a very easy to read script and storyline and possibly have a storyboard illustrated. This way, once the project sponsors sign off, it will be hard to ask anyone to stray too far from the storyboard. Even a bad video production crew can’t blatantly ignore a clear-cut storyboard. You can always point out on an illustrated storyboard what the expectations were from the beginning.


We hope these questions are useful to your thought process as you dive into your first commercial. As always, we offer consultations on these topics, so feel free to reach out! We will continue to post our expertise and experiences to public.

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