How to Get a Job Writing TV Commercials


Jul 03, 2013 - by Joe Nafziger
How to Get a Job Writing TV Commercials

[Author's note: This post applies to any type of scripted commercial video, not just TV spots.]

If you've ever watched a commercial and thought, "I could write one of those" you're probably correct. Almost anyone can pen something as good as or better than 80% of the crap that counts for video advertising.

Problem is, there are several rings of fire to jump through on the traditional route to writing commercials for a living. In this post, you'll discover a path for getting into the ad industry and generating words, ideas and images that make it worth pausing the DVR.

Put Together An Advertising Portfolio

People in creative advertising positions (copywriters, art directors, designers, etc.) are judged on their portfolio, or "book." This is a sampling of work you have created. When you're starting out, it can all be fake ads for real brands. As your professional career progresses, the fake ads are replaced with real work that ran at some point.

To build a portfolio, many people go to advertising school full time. Some people go to night classes. Very few go to no ad school at all. But what is most important is that you put together a good book.

If you want to be a copywriter, team with an art director. If you want to be an art director, find a copywriter. The two of you create concepts for ad campaigns and build them out. When you think it's good enough, test the waters.

Shop Your Portfolio Around to Agencies

Look for ad agencies that do work you like. Hunt down creative directors and creative services managers. Use Facebook, LinkedIn, whatever. Send them a link to your portfolio. Even if they don't have an opening, ask for an informational interview for feedback on your work. It'll only make you better.

Unless you filmed it yourself, you probably won't have TV in your book at this stage. That's fine. No one expects it, and no one wants to read just scripts.

Getting to Write TV Commercials

Once you're hired as a junior creative, it's rare to get the chance to write TV immediately. You cut your teeth on print ads, banner ads, out of home, web copy, etc. But if you keep wowing your superiors and have clients who do TV, you'll be given the opportunity.

At that point, figure on writing five to ten scripts for every one that piques the interest of your creative director. That's how it goes. It's a small price to pay for someone to give you a lot of money to make you're own mini-movie.

Want More Info About Copywriting?

This post was a rapid summary of a process that usually takes anywhere from one to three years. If you're interested in learning more about the process of putting together a copywriting portfolio, join me for a free Copywriting Concepts Workshop, Thursday, August 15, 6pm - 8pm, at our San Diego office.

Please email me at to get your name on the list. There are only 24 spots.


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