In very general terms, most commercial scripts contain three main components. These are known as the Problem, the solution and the call to action. In reality, there are a lot more parts that make up those three components. Let's dig a little deeper into each one.
In this creative commons photo, we see Charlie working on one of
the new invisible scripts that are so trendy these days.
The Problem usually starts the commercial off and the opening is written as an attention-getter. This is usually some off-the-wall question or a statement designed to wake the viewer or listener out of their stupor and catch their attention.
"What would we be without our mountains."
By itself, that line doesn't make a whole lot of sense. The listener’s brain subconsciously says, “huh? Wha?”
The next line usually explains or clarifies the first line and sets up the scene for the listener:
"...without the things that call us higher. That teach us to be bolder. Braver. Better."
Oh! OK, they’re talking about mountains as an metaphor for an obstacle or challenge. I get it!
The line after this then usually goes into describing the scene.
A commercial is written with the idea of planting a mental picture into the listener's head. Sometimes its a negative picture. Like one of those late night commercials that shows some 1st year acting student ham-fisting their way through the difficult task of cracking an egg, where they manage to get yolk all over themselves, the stove, the cabinets, the dog, etc. with the VO intoning:
"Cracking an egg can be difficult! With those fine motor skills needed and all those CLUMSY tools! What a hassle!!"
After implanting that mental picture for the viewer, the commercial quickly switches to the solution, or what I like to call "The turn." It's the point in the commercial where you show the miracle solution to the viewers horrible problem that you created for them just a second or two ago. Its the point in the script where you go from telling a story to selling a product.
Introducing JIFFY CRACK!
The world's BEST egg cracking solution!
blah blah blah...
This is usually also the first time that the voiceover is mentioning the product and the reason for the commercial in the first place. This is why you want to add a little more emphasis to the product name to make it stand out from the rest of the sentence.
The next line or two will go into talking about how amazingly fantastic the product is and how silly a person would be to not immediately go online and buy it.
After this comes the call to action. This is where the rubber hits the road. This is where you are physically ORDERING someone into doing something:
Test drive the new 2019 Toyota Corolla today at your local Toyota dealer.
Come on down to Billy Bob's Backyard Barbecue and have yourself a big ol plate of ribs!
Or even something simple like :
To order, call 1-800-555-1212. That's one, eight hundred...."
Depending on how much time is left or the type of commercial it is, after the call to action is usually a line that wraps up the whole commercial into the company name and possibly their tag line. "Allstate: are you in good hands?" This is usually the signature for the company and the line that most-likely means the most to the client. It is the last thing the listener is going to hear, so you need to make sure you give that line the importance the client wants it to have.
Naturally there are multiple variations of this, but for the most part, I'd say about 90% of every commercial script you see is going to be structured this way. Knowing the parts of the script can help you to get ideas on how each section could / should be voiced.
And the more you analyze a script, the more comfortable you'll be with what you’re saying, which will make it all sound that much more natural.
As you go about your day, pay attention to the commercials that you hear. Can you identify the problem? The Solution? The call to action?
About Rob Marley - A Los Angeles native, Rob is an accomplished voice talent, coach, producer and writer, now living in the Hill Country of Austin, Texas.
Find out more here. Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com