May 13, 2024

TV Commercial Costs: Crafting Impact on a Budget

film crew behind the scenes

Commercials live wherever there are eyes, ears, and internet. When done correctly, they are one of the most important forms of advertising, building interest, trust, and value in your business in just 30 seconds.

That’s a lot of pressure for what seems like a high-priced elevator pitch, but we’ve had years of experience budgeting production time and money to achieve the best possible execution for our clients, and we want to share our insights with you. So read on. Your next broadcast project may be sooner than you think.

The two most common uses for a commercial are brand establishment and product/service marketing, but whatever you’re trying to accomplish, it’s important to keep cost in mind. Media buying goals, production quality, time slots, length, and channel all make a huge difference on the bottom line. Understanding these elements will help you make informed decisions to meet the goals of your next commercial and maximize your Return on Investment (ROI). So, where do we start?

Media Buying: Secure Your Visibility

First things first. Start your media buy early in production. Once you’ve sold the concept and you know where your commercial will be delivered, determine the standards and file formats those channels expect. This will prevent the need for re-cutting and exporting your final product after post-production.

Working with an experienced media buyer is a great way to squeeze all the possibility out of your budget. They can negotiate with media outlets or channels to maximize performance against your advertising goals, buy the best ad placements ahead of time, and even get added-value impressions.

Remember that your cost per thousand impressions (CPM) will vary based on things like timing, location, and media markets, so consider some of the following:

Streaming vs. Cable: Costs here are pretty similar to start. YouTube ads start at a $10 CPM, while a slot on National TV or a streaming service like Hulu will start at a $20 CPM.

Timing and Location: Consider your direct, network, and programmatic buying strategies. If lots of other advertisers are competing for the same space through real-time bidding, expect your costs to go up as you compete with them.

Social Media: Combining a social media campaign with your ad is a great way to enhance ROI, but make sure it feels connected to your commercial. The campaign should feel like one big family, otherwise, the message might not stick.

Production Costs: Ads Add Up

The biggest influence on cost is your creative vision. Of course, a higher budget buys better production value and more media buys, but your concept sells the product, so take your time brainstorming. Come up with a message and tone that compliments the brand’s offering.

Got your concept? Good! Now let’s get down to business:

  1. Commercial Length: The most common lengths are 15, 30, and 60 seconds. You may want all three lengths for different slots, but remember that each one will require entirely different cuts or filming of your commercial. Taking a 60-second story and turning it into 15 seconds can require a lot of additional work to refine your concept.
  2. Production Crew: For a quality commercial, hiring a director and line producer you trust is vital. Directors bring your vision to life and are a huge part of handling creative decisions on set. The line producer oversees the production budget and crew operations from pre-production to post-production. Line producers are truly the heart of any production, hiring the crew, allocating the money, and making sure the filming is done safely, on budget, and on time.
  3. Equipment: Your equipment will largely be determined by other factors, so don’t worry about this too much. Instead, focus on working with a good production company that can deliver what you need in your specified budget.
  4. Actors: To meet commercial lengths, you need experienced actors who know how to deliver a great performance in a limited amount of time. You may feel inclined to hire local talent but this isn’t always the best solution. In some cases, you may be better off hiring from a more experienced pool of actors in places like Los Angeles or New York.
  5. Filming Location: It’s important to find a location that elevates your commercial’s concept, and feels true to the story you’re telling. If you want to film on-site at a real-world location, travel there before investing any money to get a better feel for the space. Some locations may involve legal, permitting, and travel costs that put them out of budget so make sure to be flexible. You can also film at a studio in a large city where you’d be able to hire local talent and production. Again, budget matters, but there are always ways to streamline costs when necessary.
aerial view of the outside of a house being used for a filming location

There’s also a few miscellaneous expenses you’ll need to consider:

  • Meals and accommodations: Feed your staff and production team! And don’t forget to take into account dietary restrictions and special requests. Also, depending on location, you’ll have to provide lodging.
  • Transportation: Moving equipment and crew to and from locations.
  • Contingency: Always set aside funds for unforeseen expenses.

But fear not. Your line producer will make a list and check it twice to ensure these costs are included in the production budget.

Post-Production: Shaping the Final Product

Some might say the hard work is over, and others would know better. Editing, coloring, audio adjustments, and adding any special effects are painstaking processes that don’t always get the glory they deserve. They can make or break your commercial.

  1. Editing: Edit various takes of the footage to your desired commercial length, and consider multiple cuts for A/B testing as well.
  2. Special effects and visual elements: Integrate special effects, CGI, motion graphics, or other visual elements during filming. You and your director should have decided what these are during the production process. You can’t fix everything in post.
  3. Color-grading: This gives your footage a consistent tone and feel. Color-grading sets the mood for the spot while making it look as professional as possible.
  4. Audio: Good sound makes a commercial feel full. This includes selecting the right music, sound effects, and voice-over if necessary. It also includes making sure that audio is compressed correctly to meet loudness limits for broadcast TV.
editor working on a laptop with an external monitor

So, What Is The Average Cost Of A TV Commercial?

The answer might surprise you! There is none. TV commercial costs range heavily based on your creative vision and the placement of your commercial. They range from a few thousand to well over a million dollars, but regardless of budget size, a good commercial comes from strong concepts and thoughtful creative.

Every brand has a story to tell, and there’s no reason you can’t be the one to tell it. The most important thing is to have a goal and a solid plan to get there. Then work with the right partners to make those goals a reality within your budget.

Have more questions about crafting an impactful TV commercial? Contact us at