The Secret Behind the Screen: How TV Commercials Get Made

Have you ever seen a commercial that you can’t get out of your mind? From the 2014 Axe Peace commercial that played during the Superbowl to Kendall Jenner’s infamous Pepsi ad, commercials can be hard to forget—for better or worse.

Effective TV ads blend together a combination of solid video production and well-written storytelling. The end result leaves you thinking about the content and, sometimes, buying the product advertised.

But what does the exact production process look like?

Keep reading to learn about everything that goes into making the TV commercials that we see.

It Starts With an Idea

Like any piece of creative content, effective TV ads stem from good ideas. Most companies have a general idea of the content they want their commercials to feature. If they don’t, they can turn to the production company for creative guidance.

A team of experts will work together to try and figure out the best way to go about advertising the product or service that the business offers. As different members of the team may have different creative visions, this initial step can often be one of the longest.

Eventually, the team will decide on an idea or vision that they will then further build off.

Use a Mood Board

To help add more focus to the idea, the creative team then begins creating a mood board. This is still a general step that involves a lot of brainstorming and spitballing ideas, but it can help to give more substance and depth to the idea.

As the name suggests, mood boards help teams decide on a mood and style for the commercial. Teams consider graphic styles, what sort of actors they want to cast, the music they’ll use, and many other aesthetic things during this time.

In some cases, businesses and production companies might even decide to make original music.

Write a Script

Once the team decides on the overall tone that they want the commercial to have, they then get to work writing the script. Most companies will work with a professional copywriter to ensure that they get the most effective content.

Writing a script might not seem that important, especially as commercials are so short. Yet it’s one of the most important steps of the production process. Next time you see a commercial, make a point to listen to the intricacies of the script.

In most cases, it doesn’t just include dialogue. Companies also need to take into account and consider other types of audio, such as voice-overs.

Find the Right People and Places

Once everyone has approved the script, it’s time to get to work finding the right people and locations to shoot the commercial. The options available to a business depend on its size and budget.

If a company has a large budget, it will be able to hold casting auditions for the commercial. This ensures that a company finds the best of the best to represent it. Smaller businesses may just cast an employee or a professional connection.

Professionals will get to work finding the perfect spot for the shoot. Once they find it, they’ll then have to ensure that the company has the necessary permits and renting licenses.

Draw up Storyboards

A director then needs to spend some time drawing up storyboards for the commercial. These serve as an outline for how the camera crew will shoot the scene and also for what the final product will look like.

Depending on the director, this may be done with a pencil and paper or with a camera and pictures. The important part is that the team ends up with an outline to help them through the shooting process.

The more prepared people are before the recording process begins, the more efficient the entire production process will go.

Start Filming

After weeks or even months’ worth of planning, production day is when everything comes together. Camera crews begin filming the actors, and the final product of the commercial begins to take form.

If an ad is short and sweet, the actors and filming crew might get through it in a matter of minutes. Longer commercials, such as Superbowl ads, may require days worth of filming.

Although most parts of the filming process should go off without a hitch, companies need to be prepared to resolve any issues or unforeseen events that arise. The key is to be flexible and work with one another to achieve the end result.


Once the filming has finished, a team of editors works on putting it into the final package that people see when they flip on their TV. Assuming that things went well during the shoot, post-production shouldn’t take more than a few days.

An editing team will use powerful software to mesh together audio, video, and graphic features. They’ll condense down hours’ worth of footage into seconds and add catchy jingles or other audio effects to the commercial.

If all goes as plan, companies will be pleased with the finished product that they see. If not, they might have to revisit the earlier steps of the TV commercial production process.

TV Commercials: More Complex Than You Might Think

Although they may only last for 15 or 20 seconds, as this guide explains, there’s a lot more that goes into TV commercials than you might think. Teams of experts spend days and weeks planning and crafting them, trying their best to ensure that they resonate with you.

Do you now have a better understanding of what goes into TV commercial production? If you do, take a moment to check out some of our other posts for more informative guides and tips.