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Determine your budget. Consider what you can afford. Be aware that the actual shooting is only part of the production cycle. There are also pre-production (before shooting begins) and post (editing your spot for broadcast) costs to consider. Limit bells and whistles to control costs and plan carefully.

Also, the more work you or your staff can do, the less a producer has to farm out to freelance crew.

Goal. What are you trying to accomplish with your commercial? Who is your target audience? Where and when will it be seen? What do you want your intended audience to get out of your commercial (buy something, visit your store, order a product, etc.)? Your cable station sales rep can help you work some of this out.

Style. Is your spot going to feature a spokesperson, a member of your staff or beauty shots of your business? Is it going to be humorous, high tech, jarring, emotional, thought provoking, hip or traditional? Write all your ideas down. Think visually and if you’ve seen something else you liked, suggest it as a possible style. Make sure the style matches your business though. Humor is great, but not if you run a funeral home.

Schedule. Determine when you’d like the finished spot on the air. Don’t cut the timeline too short. Even for a low budget, plan on at least three weeks to a month. Short lead times increase the cost of your spots. If your business benefits from a holiday season, you already know at least a year in advance when that holiday is. Don’t try to get a commercial done a week before Christmas.

Shop around. Costs and capabilities vary widely. If you’ve started an accounting business don’t hire a budding rock video director for your spot. Ask for reels of their work or if they’re a small production company, the reel of the director(s) they represent. If you’re working with the local cable station crew, ask your representative to show you some samples of previous spots they’ve done.

Don’t vary from your plan. Once you’re on the set and filming has begun, stick to the concept and the script. Don’t let the director do unnecessary beauty shots that may result in overtime and cost overruns. Concentrate on getting the filming done within the allotted time available. A solid and well-managed pre-production session will eliminate most of the unknowns of shoot days. If you want something, cover it in the pre-production meeting; not on the day you’re shooting.

Buy smart. Work with your target station’s sales representative to buy commercial space. The cheapest spots can be purchased just before the air date because stations can’t always pre-sell their time. Don’t be too choosy about specific times or shows. Prime commercial spots on popular shows command big bucks. Be sure to buy time in bulk so your commercial airs several times each day.

Don’t forget cable buys. Commercial time on cable is more affordable than you may think. Again, work with the sales rep to make your buy. Don’t accept the first offer, negotiate the buy by offering to purchase more spots for less money.

Remember the rule of nine. For a person to even begin to remember an advertising message, it has to be viewed a minimum of nine times. This rule applies to TV, radio, newspaper ads – everything. So don’t waste your time buying one or two spots if that’s all you can afford. Save up and buy the necessary number so people begin to remember you and your products or services.