Producing Great TV Commercials on a Budget
Is a big production budget necessary for a great television commercial? Maybe, maybe not.
I’ve written, produced and directed hundreds of TV commercials over my career, mostly for local businesses around the country. Some had large production budgets, some very small. What I have learned is that a big production budget does NOT guarantee a great commercial. Sure, it helps to have big bucks, but I believe some of the best commercials didn’t require a Super Bowl production budget. Truth is, the tighter the budget the more creative one has to be to produce something great. Remember the PSA commercial from the 1980’s about “your brain on drugs“? That was nothing but a shot of an egg cracked and dropped in a frying pan. Simple, but powerful–and relatively inexpensive. It was the idea that made it powerful.
So what is the key to producing a good commercial on a limited budget? It all starts with a concept. A simple concept well executed is far better than a complicated idea done on a low budget. If your concept calls for casting a dozen actors and shooting in multiple locations and you don’t have the budget to do it right, then just don’t do it. Maybe execute that idea with multiple voices and stock photos instead, or just a well-written script and words on the screen. In other words, execute a simple idea really well instead of trying to pull off a complex production with no money. That’s why so many local commercials look, well, local. They often attempt to create a bigger production with poor writing, bad acting, bad lighting, etc.
Here’s a link to a recent University of Phoenix commercial that I think is awesome. Yes, this commercial was not cheap to produce, but what makes it work in my opinion is the clever re-working of the song “If I Only Had a Brain” from The Wizard of Oz. They could have just taken the song and done very simple visuals, such as graphics or still photos and it would have still been a powerful spot. It was the concept of “I have a brain” that makes it memorable.
So when planning to produce a commercial or a campaign for television on a budget, I always encourage local advertisers to think simple, and execute well. And if that’s just “not your thing” seek out a company who can help you. Remember, you’re trying to make a positive impression on thousands of people.
Larry Roy is the President and CEO of Point 3 Media, a Creative/Production Company based in Nashville, TN that specializes in Video Production, Advertising and Marketing Services. Please call us at (888) 298-3036, or visit our website to learn more about our services!