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How Long Does It Take to Make a TV Commercial?

Torrey Tayenaka
Torrey Tayenaka

Would your product or service benefit from a television commercial? Here's how involved the process is and what to expect when making a TV commercial.

Do you have a product or service that would benefit from the exposure of a TV commercial? Online video delivery outlets like YouTube, Facebook, and Instagram are gaining in popularity and accessibility, making it easier than ever before to harness the power of television, connected television (CTV), and streaming services to advertise your business or company.

The diversifying landscape of viewer habits and accessibility is changing the relationship between content creators and users, providing a wide range of benefits for video advertisements and commercials in today’s digital age.

  • The average American adult consumes up to five hours of live and pre-recorded video content a day.

  • By 2022, more than 60 percent of television viewers will be watching CTV.

  • Most connected TV ads that run on CTV platforms do not allow fast-forward or skipping, leading to consistently higher completion rate than desktop and mobile.

  • Television ad spending continues to rise with addressable TV ad spending expected to grow to over $3 billion in the next year.

How Long Does It Take?

When people ask “how long does it take to make a TV commercial?” there are too many variables and unknowns to give a precise universal answer. Depending on your product, budget, and expertise, timelines for creating an effective, dynamic television ad for your company vary widely. Furthermore, timelines and budgets can heavily dictate how video production costs get distributed throughout the project. Professional-looking television ads can be created in an afternoon or can take months of pre-production planning, filming, and editing.

To best understand how long a commercial takes to produce is to understand the different steps of making a commercial. 

Process of making a commercial

While each tv commercial is different and catered to the needs, limitations, and preferences of each business, there is a standard process of logical steps designed to ensure all of your video marketing goals are met and that the ad properly represents your business and product.

Creative brief

A creative brief will cover the basic outline of the project, including the overall objectives of the ad, background information, determining the target audience parameters, anticipated struggles and hurdles, and a breakdown of the channels and outlets where the ads will be distributed. The creative brief is the document all team members will work off to make sure all goals and elements are being completed.

Concept development

The best way to develop and flush out the conceptual elements of the project is by throwing mud up against the wall and seeing what sticks. No idea is a bad one. Take the information from the creative brief and hash out different ways of carrying that out until a consensus is reached for the specific direction is created.

Moodboard

A moodboard is used to plot out the conceptual elements that take shape. It is a more detailed look at the project that the creative team will use as a guide going forward. A moodboard includes the following aspects of the production:

  • Video Concept

  • Graphic Style Boards

  • Music Preferences

  • Graphic Styles

  • Cast Needs, Descriptions

  • Voiceover Description

  • Wardrobe/Costume Plan

  • Cinematic Style

  • Location, Site Needs

Script

One of the biggest mistakes you can make is thinking you or your actors can wing it and improvise without a script.  What often happens during a “winging” moment is that scenes and shots deviate from the original shot list, causing much more headaches and editing later. Changes and adjustments can be made later, but a script acts as the foundation to work from.

AV script

The AV script serves as the blueprint for the project shoot. A professional AV script format is broken down into two columns, one for audio and one for video instructions and content.

Casting of actors and VO talent

Unless there are actors and voiceover talent that the project and script are catering to, talent should be hired once the script is completed and approved. A combination of existing talent base and casting sessions will give you the best chance of getting the perfect people to fill the needed roles. To ensure that the commercial comes out exactly as intended, finding the right on screen or voiceover talent can ultimately make or break the video, so its important to take your time finding the right actors. 

Renting locations

Scouting for the ideal locations to maximize the elements of the story you are telling should be carefully researched and prepared. Whether you are using a production studio or remote site, the location and background of the video is a crucial element in delivering your message. Coordination of operations of that day, for example, how early you can be there and when you have to be out can cause a much more methodical need for planning that most teams don’t consider. 

Sourcing props and wardrobe

There are properties and wardrobe rental options, but a little time and effort can usually supply the props and clothing needed to supply the location and talent with the items needed and called for in the script.

Storyboard

In a visual medium it is important for the entire creative team to get a visual outline of the story they are about to tell. The details of a storyboard will vary depending on the project scope and details. It typically consists of sketches, illustrations, or other forms of media that lay out the technical details of the production.

Production

A production schedule detailing timeframes and needs will help keep the project in check as you start the actual shooting of the commercial.

Post - production

The editing and other post-production elements will bring all of the project elements together for the final product. Video and sound editors work to form a cohesive, dynamic presentation of the business’ products or services.

Factors that can change our timeline

Building in time to make adjustments and changes after each step of the process is important to be able keep on schedule. Factors that may cause changes in the timeline include:

Concept

Creating and refining the conceptual elements of the tv commercial is the driving force behind the project. When formulating the project’s concept there are few things to look out for that can cause changes in the timeline, including:

  • Number of shooting days

  • Number, type of locations needed

  • Specialty set builds

  • Hard-to-acquire props or wardrobe

  • Advanced editing or other post-production elements

Reviews and approvals

The review and approval process can bog down the progress of a project without clear guidelines and schedules. If there are a lot of back-and-forth and creative differences, pre-production planning will be delayed and the entire project will be put back. Organizing and optimizing the chain of command when it comes to review and approval will allow for better scheduling and a more accurate timeline for completion.

TV commercials take time and effort

As you can see, the time it takes to complete a television commercial varies widely and depends on a large number of factors and variables. The only way to truly know how long it will take is to do extensive pre-production planning following these basic steps, stay organized, and keep the lines of communication open throughout the team. And the best way to ensure that you stay in the timeline is to plan well and execute according to plan, don’t let you or your team fall into rabbit holes or relax, or else you’ll find your projects, all of a sudden, weeks behind.

Image Credit: diego_cervo/Getty
Torrey Tayenaka
Torrey Tayenaka
business.com Member
Torrey Tayenaka is the co-founder and CEO at Sparkhouse, a full service Orange County based video production agency. Sparkhouse is known for transforming video marketing and advertising into real conversations. A graduate of the prestigious University of Southern California School of Cinematic Arts, Torrey believes in social, branded interactive content. Rather than hitting the consumer over the head with blatant ads, Sparkhouse creates interesting, entertaining and useful videos that enrich the lives of his clients’ customers. Our production team has a multitude of capabilities that can accomplish any company video marketing goals. In addition to Sparkhouse, Torrey has also founded the companies Eva Smart Shower, Litehouse & Forge54