How to make a commercial: 8 crucial steps

Video commercials are a time-tested way to advertise your brand. Learn how to make a commercial in the digital age with these tips.
January 17, 2024
Mina Son
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Commercials are one of the oldest forms of advertising. Brands started using commercial videos in the 1940s to advertise their products and services on TV. We’ve since progressed to podcast advertising and social media commercials, which is why the global digital video advertising industry is tipped to be worth a whopping $553.6 billion by 2032.

One thing’s for sure: commercials are a great video format to communicate with your target audience, increase brand awareness, and drive sales—even if you’re not restricting your videos to TV. In this step-by-step guide we’ll share how to make a commercial, complete with tips and examples to draw inspiration from.

What makes a great video commercial?

A great commercial or promo video promotes your products and services to raise brand awareness. The most successful commercials have a clear message or narrative, visual appeal, emotional resonance, and a call-to-action at the end. 

Clear message and storyline

A great commercial isn't confusing. It doesn't try to tell the audience too much, but also isn't vague or mysterious. You only have 30 to 90 seconds to grab your audience’s attention and tell them what you want them to know, so your message must be very clear. 

Consider this Kmart ad announcing that customers can ship products in-store—one message with a simple script. They've also added a bit of humor to help the commercial stick in viewer's minds. 

 

Visual appeal and high production quality

A large part of any marketing strategy is how something looks and sounds. Aesthetics are important. 

Just think of a restaurant or food commercial, like this Whopper TV ad from Burger King. The video production makes the burger on-screen look beautiful and mouthwatering. When you actually get a Whopper it might not look exactly like this, but this is the ideal—so it’s the version you put in the commercial.

‎‎

Emotional resonance

The best commercials—the ones that will stick out in your audience's mind even years later—trigger some sort of emotional response. It can be humor, sadness, shock, or that fuzzy feel-good feeling. Whatever the response is, a strong one will make your audience feel something about your brand and company.

Gum company Extra does a great job creating storylines and touching moments through their commercials. Take this one depicting a father and daughter sharing Extra gum at each of the daughter's life milestones—both joys and tribulations. It makes Extra seem like more than just gum; it's also a chance to connect with those you love.

Call-to-action (CTA)

Every good commercial tells the audience how to get what they've just seen. That can mean on-screen text telling viewers to call a phone number or a voiceover telling them to rush to a shop nearby. 

Or maybe you just want them to sign up for a newsletter or follow your brand on social media. Either way, you need to tell your audience what you want them to do at the end of your commercial. 

Look at Sephora's holiday commercial outlining how products from the cosmetics store make great gifts. The video ends with a CTA to "Give Something Beautiful" by, you guessed it: buying gifts from Sephora.

8 steps for making your own commercial

How you create your commercial will vary depending on what you’re trying to say, the platform you’re using to share it, and your budget. 

For example, if you’re making radio ads, the steps will be slightly different from creating video content for social media platforms like YouTube. To keep things simple, we’ll go through the process of creating a video commercial. 

Step 1: Research your demographic and competition

Before you spend any time or money creating a commercial, you must know what your audience wants and how to set yourself apart from your competition. This sets the foundation for targeted ads that resonate with the right buyers.

Suppose you're creating a commercial for a new fitness app. Your primary demographic might be health-conscious individuals, aged 20–35, who are tech-savvy and looking for innovative ways to track and improve their fitness. Those are the types of people you should target in your commercial. 

If you already have a website or social media channels set up for your brand, those are a good place to start. Comb through your sales and analytics of your most popular social media posts to see whose interest you’re piquing and what products or services are flying off your shelves. 

You can also comb through your competitors’ social media profiles and look at the response and views your competition is getting for their ads. Learn from their mistakes, borrow from their successes, and find the gaps in the market you can fill.

Step 2: Brainstorm ideas

After you know what people want, you need to figure out the best way to explain how you can deliver it. 

First, clearly define what you want to achieve with the commercial. Is it brand awareness, announcing a product launch, or encouraging sales? Your objective guides your brainstorming.

Then, you can start a brainstorming session with your team. Here’s what to do:

  1. Assemble a team with different backgrounds and perspectives. Diversity in thought leads to more creative and inclusive ideas.
  2. Choose a comfortable and inspiring environment for a brainstorming session. 
  3. Use brainstorming techniques like mindmapping and brainwriting to create themes.
  4. Create simple storyboards of the most promising ideas.

Encourage the wildest ideas from your team. Look for inspiration in current trends, pop culture, and other areas that resonate with your target audience. 

Remember, you'll have to navigate your budget constraints when bringing your ideas to life. If you have minimal budget, pad some of your commercial with stock footage or use an AI voice for narration.

Step 3: Write a script/storyboard

After you’ve settled on an idea, it’s time to write a script and storyboard the shots you want to get for your commercial.

A video script will give you a better idea of what you’ll need to tell the story you want. A storyboard, on the other hand, will help keep you organized. It’ll act as a shot list to help you get every piece of footage you need while on set.

Step 4: Cast talent and gather crew

Now you know what you need, it’s time to find your talent and your crew. These are the people who will make your commercial possible. That can mean holding auditions if you need professional actors, or deciding you’ll take stage as the spokesperson for your brand. In that case, you should learn how to read a script like a professional voice actor while recording.

When it comes to the crew behind the camera, you may need to find a videographer, a producer, or a grip. Maybe you’re planning on being a crew of one and doing it all yourself. There’s no rule that makes one way right or wrong. Your budget and message will help you decide which avenue is best for the commercial you want to make.

Don’t feel like being on screen or holding auditions for talent? Use an AI video generator to create your commercial. Descript is home to premium stock voices you can put over B-roll and turn your commercial script into audio within seconds. 

Image of user choosing an AI-generated voice in Descript


Step 5: Gather necessary equipment

Every video commercial will need something that can capture video content. If you’re on a smaller budget, a smartphone camera with its built-in mic and a tripod might be all you need. But if you want to create something for network TV, you may have to splurge for some more professional grade gear. 

You’ll also need to find good video editing software to bring it all together. If you use Descript, microphones are one thing you don’t need to splurge on. Studio Sound can remove fuzzy background noise and enhance audio quality in post-production.

Step 6: Shoot or record your commercial

Next, gather your equipment and start shooting your commercial footage. As tempting as it might be to turn the camera off in between takes, try your best to keep it rolling. You can always go back and edit unwanted footage out in post-production, but you’ll have a hard time re-recording it with exactly the same layout and lighting afterward. 

If you’ve got a limited budget or smaller production team, consider using stock B-roll footage to slot within your commercial. If you’re showing farm-to-table food, for example, you could use stock footage of a farm or a family eating a meal.

The best part? You don’t need to find a shooting location that ticks every box. Find the stock videos you want to include, then use an AI-generated green screen to replace your background with the video.

Step 7: Edit commercial

The post-production phase is where you edit your commercial together and refine the message. It's where you'll add transitions, color-correct, edit audio, and cut together the footage. 

The key is finding video editing software that works for your needs and expertise. Don't think you have to shell out for an expensive video editor—there are free tools like Descript to help you produce professional grade videos. It even has video templates to configure your video automatically and make it compatible with different social media platforms.

Step 8: Gauge response and analyze feedback

After you’ve posted or aired your commercial, your work isn’t done. The final step is to look over the feedback your viewers are giving you. 

If you’ve posted your commercial on YouTube, the comments are a goldmine of video marketing information. Viewer feedback can tell you if you're heading in the right direction or you need to change course, and can even reveal new demographics or alternate uses for your products that you hadn't considered.

4 tips for making an engaging commercial

Know your audience

Part of knowing your brand is knowing who's going to buy your products or use your services and what it is they want. The needs and wants of—and therefore, the commercials that appeal to—a 40-year-old male mechanic from Las Vegas are very different from the needs of a 13-year-old girl living in Alaska.  

Tell a compelling story

It will cost you time, energy, and money to create this commercial. You’ve done the research and know people want and need what you're selling, so make them want to buy from you.

In a world where TikTok users decide whether to watch a video in less than three seconds, you don't have long to grab your viewers' attention and convince them to keep watching your commercial. Tell your audience about your brand through a story or a compelling narrative structure, or even have a customer tell their story in a testimonial to prove it.

Highlight unique selling points

Did you know that the average American sees over 100 ads per day? If you want to stand out from the noise, show your audience how you’re unique. 

Your commercial should be telling your audience what makes you special—and why they should be spending their money with you. This might be your commitment to sustainability, your influencer-endorsed product range, or the fact that your product has been proven to work better than any other on the market. 

Create a memorable tagline

Taglines are a type of branding material that help people remember commercials. Just think about how many taglines have permeated our pop culture: Nike’s “Just Do It” and McDonald’s “I’m Lovin’ It” are just two examples. If you can create one for your commercial, make it stick by adding it to every marketing campaign. 

The best way to promote your brand through video

Use a tool like Descript that allows you to capture video, edit your commercial, and publish it all at once. It can save you time during the production process and help create better marketing and promo videos.

Descript has a host of AI features that make shooting, editing, publishing your videos a breeze: 

  • Auto transcription with <95% accuracy
  • Filler word removal to remove awkward pauses and stutters
  • AI audio generation, so you don’t have to re-record any audio
  • Video templates that format your commercial for different social media platforms
  • Automatic reel maker and clip generator for your videos

Descript is the video editor of choice for top brands like Shopify, Headspace, and Masterclass. Take a free tour today and see why.


How to make a commercial FAQs

How much money do you need to make a commercial?

The cost of commercials can vary depending on what kind of commercial you want to create, who will be creating the commercial, who your potential customer is, and what platform you’ll be using to share your commercial. The cost of an in-house video ad made for social media is going to be a lot cheaper than a primetime TV commercial made by a production company.

What do you need to make a good commercial?

  • An engaging story or narrative
  • A strong hook
  • A unique selling point
  • A memorable tagline
  • High-quality video and audio
  • A call-to-action 

How do people make commercials?

You can hire a professional video ad agency and make expensive television commercials. The most affordable option, however, is to download free video editing software and create online videos to post on YouTube.

Mina Son
Mina is a writer, video game narrative designer, and all-around word nerd. When not writing, she embarks on adventures with her husky, Moro.
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How to make a commercial: 8 crucial steps

Commercials are one of the oldest forms of advertising. Brands started using commercial videos in the 1940s to advertise their products and services on TV. We’ve since progressed to podcast advertising and social media commercials, which is why the global digital video advertising industry is tipped to be worth a whopping $553.6 billion by 2032.

One thing’s for sure: commercials are a great video format to communicate with your target audience, increase brand awareness, and drive sales—even if you’re not restricting your videos to TV. In this step-by-step guide we’ll share how to make a commercial, complete with tips and examples to draw inspiration from.

What makes a great video commercial?

A great commercial or promo video promotes your products and services to raise brand awareness. The most successful commercials have a clear message or narrative, visual appeal, emotional resonance, and a call-to-action at the end. 

Clear message and storyline

A great commercial isn't confusing. It doesn't try to tell the audience too much, but also isn't vague or mysterious. You only have 30 to 90 seconds to grab your audience’s attention and tell them what you want them to know, so your message must be very clear. 

Consider this Kmart ad announcing that customers can ship products in-store—one message with a simple script. They've also added a bit of humor to help the commercial stick in viewer's minds. 

 

Visual appeal and high production quality

A large part of any marketing strategy is how something looks and sounds. Aesthetics are important. 

Just think of a restaurant or food commercial, like this Whopper TV ad from Burger King. The video production makes the burger on-screen look beautiful and mouthwatering. When you actually get a Whopper it might not look exactly like this, but this is the ideal—so it’s the version you put in the commercial.

‎‎

Emotional resonance

The best commercials—the ones that will stick out in your audience's mind even years later—trigger some sort of emotional response. It can be humor, sadness, shock, or that fuzzy feel-good feeling. Whatever the response is, a strong one will make your audience feel something about your brand and company.

Gum company Extra does a great job creating storylines and touching moments through their commercials. Take this one depicting a father and daughter sharing Extra gum at each of the daughter's life milestones—both joys and tribulations. It makes Extra seem like more than just gum; it's also a chance to connect with those you love.

Call-to-action (CTA)

Every good commercial tells the audience how to get what they've just seen. That can mean on-screen text telling viewers to call a phone number or a voiceover telling them to rush to a shop nearby. 

Or maybe you just want them to sign up for a newsletter or follow your brand on social media. Either way, you need to tell your audience what you want them to do at the end of your commercial. 

Look at Sephora's holiday commercial outlining how products from the cosmetics store make great gifts. The video ends with a CTA to "Give Something Beautiful" by, you guessed it: buying gifts from Sephora.

8 steps for making your own commercial

How you create your commercial will vary depending on what you’re trying to say, the platform you’re using to share it, and your budget. 

For example, if you’re making radio ads, the steps will be slightly different from creating video content for social media platforms like YouTube. To keep things simple, we’ll go through the process of creating a video commercial. 

Step 1: Research your demographic and competition

Before you spend any time or money creating a commercial, you must know what your audience wants and how to set yourself apart from your competition. This sets the foundation for targeted ads that resonate with the right buyers.

Suppose you're creating a commercial for a new fitness app. Your primary demographic might be health-conscious individuals, aged 20–35, who are tech-savvy and looking for innovative ways to track and improve their fitness. Those are the types of people you should target in your commercial. 

If you already have a website or social media channels set up for your brand, those are a good place to start. Comb through your sales and analytics of your most popular social media posts to see whose interest you’re piquing and what products or services are flying off your shelves. 

You can also comb through your competitors’ social media profiles and look at the response and views your competition is getting for their ads. Learn from their mistakes, borrow from their successes, and find the gaps in the market you can fill.

Step 2: Brainstorm ideas

After you know what people want, you need to figure out the best way to explain how you can deliver it. 

First, clearly define what you want to achieve with the commercial. Is it brand awareness, announcing a product launch, or encouraging sales? Your objective guides your brainstorming.

Then, you can start a brainstorming session with your team. Here’s what to do:

  1. Assemble a team with different backgrounds and perspectives. Diversity in thought leads to more creative and inclusive ideas.
  2. Choose a comfortable and inspiring environment for a brainstorming session. 
  3. Use brainstorming techniques like mindmapping and brainwriting to create themes.
  4. Create simple storyboards of the most promising ideas.

Encourage the wildest ideas from your team. Look for inspiration in current trends, pop culture, and other areas that resonate with your target audience. 

Remember, you'll have to navigate your budget constraints when bringing your ideas to life. If you have minimal budget, pad some of your commercial with stock footage or use an AI voice for narration.

Step 3: Write a script/storyboard

After you’ve settled on an idea, it’s time to write a script and storyboard the shots you want to get for your commercial.

A video script will give you a better idea of what you’ll need to tell the story you want. A storyboard, on the other hand, will help keep you organized. It’ll act as a shot list to help you get every piece of footage you need while on set.

Step 4: Cast talent and gather crew

Now you know what you need, it’s time to find your talent and your crew. These are the people who will make your commercial possible. That can mean holding auditions if you need professional actors, or deciding you’ll take stage as the spokesperson for your brand. In that case, you should learn how to read a script like a professional voice actor while recording.

When it comes to the crew behind the camera, you may need to find a videographer, a producer, or a grip. Maybe you’re planning on being a crew of one and doing it all yourself. There’s no rule that makes one way right or wrong. Your budget and message will help you decide which avenue is best for the commercial you want to make.

Don’t feel like being on screen or holding auditions for talent? Use an AI video generator to create your commercial. Descript is home to premium stock voices you can put over B-roll and turn your commercial script into audio within seconds. 

Image of user choosing an AI-generated voice in Descript


Step 5: Gather necessary equipment

Every video commercial will need something that can capture video content. If you’re on a smaller budget, a smartphone camera with its built-in mic and a tripod might be all you need. But if you want to create something for network TV, you may have to splurge for some more professional grade gear. 

You’ll also need to find good video editing software to bring it all together. If you use Descript, microphones are one thing you don’t need to splurge on. Studio Sound can remove fuzzy background noise and enhance audio quality in post-production.

Step 6: Shoot or record your commercial

Next, gather your equipment and start shooting your commercial footage. As tempting as it might be to turn the camera off in between takes, try your best to keep it rolling. You can always go back and edit unwanted footage out in post-production, but you’ll have a hard time re-recording it with exactly the same layout and lighting afterward. 

If you’ve got a limited budget or smaller production team, consider using stock B-roll footage to slot within your commercial. If you’re showing farm-to-table food, for example, you could use stock footage of a farm or a family eating a meal.

The best part? You don’t need to find a shooting location that ticks every box. Find the stock videos you want to include, then use an AI-generated green screen to replace your background with the video.

Step 7: Edit commercial

The post-production phase is where you edit your commercial together and refine the message. It's where you'll add transitions, color-correct, edit audio, and cut together the footage. 

The key is finding video editing software that works for your needs and expertise. Don't think you have to shell out for an expensive video editor—there are free tools like Descript to help you produce professional grade videos. It even has video templates to configure your video automatically and make it compatible with different social media platforms.

Step 8: Gauge response and analyze feedback

After you’ve posted or aired your commercial, your work isn’t done. The final step is to look over the feedback your viewers are giving you. 

If you’ve posted your commercial on YouTube, the comments are a goldmine of video marketing information. Viewer feedback can tell you if you're heading in the right direction or you need to change course, and can even reveal new demographics or alternate uses for your products that you hadn't considered.

4 tips for making an engaging commercial

Know your audience

Part of knowing your brand is knowing who's going to buy your products or use your services and what it is they want. The needs and wants of—and therefore, the commercials that appeal to—a 40-year-old male mechanic from Las Vegas are very different from the needs of a 13-year-old girl living in Alaska.  

Tell a compelling story

It will cost you time, energy, and money to create this commercial. You’ve done the research and know people want and need what you're selling, so make them want to buy from you.

In a world where TikTok users decide whether to watch a video in less than three seconds, you don't have long to grab your viewers' attention and convince them to keep watching your commercial. Tell your audience about your brand through a story or a compelling narrative structure, or even have a customer tell their story in a testimonial to prove it.

Highlight unique selling points

Did you know that the average American sees over 100 ads per day? If you want to stand out from the noise, show your audience how you’re unique. 

Your commercial should be telling your audience what makes you special—and why they should be spending their money with you. This might be your commitment to sustainability, your influencer-endorsed product range, or the fact that your product has been proven to work better than any other on the market. 

Create a memorable tagline

Taglines are a type of branding material that help people remember commercials. Just think about how many taglines have permeated our pop culture: Nike’s “Just Do It” and McDonald’s “I’m Lovin’ It” are just two examples. If you can create one for your commercial, make it stick by adding it to every marketing campaign. 

The best way to promote your brand through video

Use a tool like Descript that allows you to capture video, edit your commercial, and publish it all at once. It can save you time during the production process and help create better marketing and promo videos.

Descript has a host of AI features that make shooting, editing, publishing your videos a breeze: 

  • Auto transcription with <95% accuracy
  • Filler word removal to remove awkward pauses and stutters
  • AI audio generation, so you don’t have to re-record any audio
  • Video templates that format your commercial for different social media platforms
  • Automatic reel maker and clip generator for your videos

Descript is the video editor of choice for top brands like Shopify, Headspace, and Masterclass. Take a free tour today and see why.


How to make a commercial FAQs

How much money do you need to make a commercial?

The cost of commercials can vary depending on what kind of commercial you want to create, who will be creating the commercial, who your potential customer is, and what platform you’ll be using to share your commercial. The cost of an in-house video ad made for social media is going to be a lot cheaper than a primetime TV commercial made by a production company.

What do you need to make a good commercial?

  • An engaging story or narrative
  • A strong hook
  • A unique selling point
  • A memorable tagline
  • High-quality video and audio
  • A call-to-action 

How do people make commercials?

You can hire a professional video ad agency and make expensive television commercials. The most affordable option, however, is to download free video editing software and create online videos to post on YouTube.

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