Finding The Commercial Read!

Leeann Dearing

You guys know me. I love commercials. They are the lions share of my work, and I like it that way. I enjoy the flexibility of commercial/industrial work. I love that commercials have become theatrical and clever. It’s just the right kind of career for me.

(Yours truly, atop a noble steed filming a commercial for the Arizona Lottery. Two giant balls find love in a hopeless place. One of my favorite jobs to date.)

Among the unique challenges of commercial work, however, is the copy.  These scripts can be very sale-sy. (Obviously. It’s a sales pitch.) When is the last time you said any of the following in real life?

” It’s full of features like the IntelliLink voice-activated sound system, the industry’s first front center air bag and available seating for up to 8. “

“Now with real fruit juice, 10% of your daily calcium and only 10 calories in every 8 oz. serving!”


And you’d be amazed at how many well trained actors see a line of dialogue like that and just freeze. They can’t find a way to make it feel less false, to bring something human to the cumbersome copy. It’s not an easy job, I grant you.

Here are a few questions to answer each time you get a script that will help you find a comfortable delivery, no matter what the copy looks like!

  1. The WHO. Who am I talking to? Imagine I’m selling a Toyota minivan. Okay. So my job becomes to identify my target demographic in 10 year increments. 15-25? Um, nope. 25-35? Getting warmer. 35-45. Probably. You get the idea. Then I need to decide if my target demographic is a male or female. This would probably be female. Socioeconomic status? I’d guess middle class. Location? (Rural? Urban? Suburban?) I’d go with Suburban. Then I’d try to find the person in my life as close to this description as possible. And I’d talk to her. Make a smart choice, but also make an emotionally exciting choice! (If your cousin fits the criteria but you don’t particularly like your cousin, don’t use her!) The person you chose as your “who” must be someone you can easily put your “actor’s faith” in; someone you can easily picture in detail and who you feel very safe with. Someone you enjoy.
  2. The WHERE. Where am I? Why would this even matter? The client doesn’t know or care that you’ve chosen a destination. This is for your benefit. To ground you into something real, and give you a specific tone and set of behaviors. (A living room, An office, A restaurant etc.)   And…while we’re here, let me say a word about “Behavior” for a moment. When you’re performing on camera, your baseline is STILLNESS. Meaning you don’t move, unless something happens to make you move organically. If you watch yourself on camera, you’ll immediately notice what movements are connected to truthful impulse, and which are manufactured. Excessive hand movements, head bobbling, eyebrows wiggling; it’s painfully evident that these are not natural extensions of your conversation. Behavior is anything that happens as a byproduct of truthful living and real conversation. 
  3. The WHY. We try to avoid using the word “selling”. You’re not selling anything, but you are imparting a feeling. Let’s go back to my minivan example. What am I imparting to my 35-45 year old, female, suburban friend? I want her to feel safe. Safe, and more than that. I want her to feel like a good mother. There it is. You see that? I’m speaking from my emotional instrument, not from the head. So the copy never changes, but my thought underneath the words becomes “You are a good mother.” That’s alive. That’s exciting. That’s human.

This is a great place to start with any commercial script! If you need some scripts to practice with, give us a call (480-313-9901). We’re always happy to give you scripts, or point you in the right direction. Thanks for reading!