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TV Commercial Production Cost


What Does a TV Commercial Cost?

Posted August 15, 2016


The simple answer to the question, "what does a TV commercial cost?" is that it varies widely. This is good news. It means that businesses of every size and type can afford a TV commercial production.

There are a few things to look out for when getting a television commercial made for your business.

The Rock-bottom Problem:

When an advertiser doesn't know much about TV commercial production, it's easy to fall into making a decision based only on price. The resulting ad will likely be disappointing in quality and style, and less effective because it won't impress customers, either.

DIY Dilemma:

A do-it-yourself ad can be a disaster - this route forces the advertiser to write their own ad copy without experience in script writing, come up with their own visual design, and arrange to hire skilled professionals like videographers, editors, narrators or actors. TV production is hard work that takes time, skill, and experience. All of these tasks are better left to TV producers familiar with the best ways to find and combine the diverse talents and audio/visual elements that comprise a TV commercial.

When Price is Given Too Much Priority:

A rock-bottom priced TV ad maker may offer a basic 30-second TV ad starting as low as $300-500. Be cautious of these offers. To keep costs down, the ad may be based on a template or a prepackaged style. Some low-budget producers are just one-man-shows or part-timers, getting in front of the camera themselves to make your pitch, inserting template backgrounds to disguise a canned presentation. Warning: Productions that start this low are often too bare-bones to be useful. Add-ons to make the ad actually satisfactory cost you money, and little by little the price goes up. By the time the production is complete, the total price tag may be closer to $2,100-$2,500 for an ad that simply looks shabby. Some online video producers do a nice job, but the cost of shooting and numerous rounds of revisions are billed on an hourly basis, bringing the price tag to $10,00 or more, and there is no guarantee that a video made for the web will pass television broadcast standards (many do not).

Quality Matters At Least As Much As Price:

For the average business, like attorney offices, medical clinics, retail shops, and e-commerce stores, there is a better option than cut-rate ads, which is affordable and crafted to make the right impression on customers. National or near-national quality ads can be produced for less than $10,000, often much less. For heavy television advertisers like local auto dealers, injury lawyers, furniture stores, and others in a competitive business sector, fresh television ads may need to be produced on a regular basis, or be changed and updated continuously throughout the year. A good TV commercial producer can control their client's costs by reutilizing materials while creating fresh presentations for new sales or offers. Local car dealers always seem to have beautiful footage of their new vehicles cruising down mountain roads, touring a dazzling city, or parking in front of an inviting and warm home. This footage is shot by the national brand's agency, and provided to the local dealer's producers to incorporate into dealer advertising.

In the mid-range, affordable category of TV commercial production, typically the producer will ask a few questions via email or over the phone, and then create a price estimate or bid for the ad production work. This can be a flat amount for a complete commercial, or it can be itemized by the activities and materials that would be required to create the completed commercial. In the case of the flat fee estimate, the features of the commercial production package are detailed. Items to look for include scriptwriting, storyboarding, videography or photography, editing, studio/location/equipment rental, materials like props, stock footage, backgrounds, and music underscores, and hiring of skilled professionals like actors and narrators. Don't be tempted to try to reduce the price by skipping vital activities like scriptwriting or editing. Do ask yourself if your message really requires a famous spokesperson, on-screen actors, or shooting footage at exotic or expensive locations.

Shooting a TV commercial is a labor intensive process that requires the right equipment and experience. Another equally important portion of television ad production is editing. Some producers may skimp on editing, either because they're looking to cut labor costs, or they are not skilled in that respect. Given the strict timing and technical requirements for TV commercials, skimping on editing can turn even very good footage into an embarrassingly bad ad. On the other hand, average footage in the hands of a capable and accomplished editor can be woven into an impactful message.

For National Brands and Large Corporations:

A national television commercial can cost on average $350,000 to $500,000 for a highly stylized, well filmed, and precisely edited television commercial, which may include famous spokespersons, special effects, or lavish locations. A commercial made for a special occasion, such as a Super Bowl debut, often requires the advertiser to spend much more, because such ads are intended for an extremely large audience that watches the show in part to see those highly crafted commercials. Some might say that the popular TV ad contests are a cheap way to get a great ad, but in reality, running the contest (planning, promoting, judging) is a labor and cost intensive process, too. For the advertiser, the TV ad contest is an expensive proposition, but it gets people talking, which is the aim of any good campaign.

Don't Be Dazzled into Over-Spending or Under-Spending:

Advertising should take about 10-15% of a business's monthly gross revenues. This makes a television commercial of $1,000-$5,000 quite affordable for most businesses, considering that the commercial can be used, reused, and updated over the course of a year, or more. Going too low-budget can make the advertiser look less respectable or unsophisticated. Splurging on a video production extravaganza could backfire if the ad takes up too much of the advertiser's overall budget, robbing the campaign of funding for TV air time and other media to supplement the campaign.


For more information about how television advertising works, see our other articles.




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