407.734.3638 nic@nicnatarella.com

I remember when I first became the Creative Services Director at a five-station cluster.  It was kinda like when you miss the meeting and they make you president of the committee.  Back then, I had no idea how to write a commercial.

I had read and produced tons of them, but had never written any of them.  The first time I wrote a :30 commercial I remember typing (yes, actually typing on a typewriter) the opening sentence and looking at all the white space that represented the other :28 of the commercial!  I had no idea what to say!!

Then, some hot shot radio sales guy comes in, hands me a production order for a :60!  I thought I would be there all day!!

Now it’s just the opposite!  I can’t stand :30s and there’s never enough time in a :60 – I wish the industry would adopt a :90 or 2-minute format!!  But it’s going to be a loooong time before that happens.

So, how much can you put into a :30 or a :60?

Today’s answer is purely technical.  The importance isn’t how much you put in your commercial, the important is what you put in your commercial.  But that’s a discussion for another blog entry.

A normal speaking pace for a straight-read commercial will require about 85-95 words for a :30, and 170-190 for a :60.  That’s the short answer.

Some considerations:

  • Is there any dialog in the spot?  You’ll want to write less.
  • Is this a high-energy hype (i.e. car dealership) spot?  You can write more.
  • Is this a sincere, touching, heart-felt (i.e. funeral home) spot?  You’ll want to write less.
  • If you write the perfect script, and the client wants to add something…remember, something has to be cut out to make room.
  • Numbers are words – spell them out.  “528 Main Street” becomes “Five twenty eight Main Street”

And the best tip/trick of all…most word processors have a word count function.  Check the “Help” section of your word processor to see how to use it – most likely it is only a couple clicks.