Creating an ad: what’s the TV commercial production process?

By John Manning & Peri Lyons, 24 May 2021 | 8 mins read

Of all the weapons in a Marketing Manager’s arsenal, TV commercials are among the most show-stopping and powerful. While new-fangled formats might take pride of place on the marketing agenda nowadays, there is still a strong argument to be had for that sometimes spine-tingling, definitely attention-grabbing TV ad. After all, everyone remembers their favourite ad, even years after the campaign has ended. Creating the right commercial for a brand is a multi-stage process that you need to understand. So lt’s dive into what should be the perfect TV commercial production process!

Stat attack

  • In the short term, TV is responsible for 62% of all advertising-generated profit at an ROI of £1.73 for every pound spent, the highest of any media. (Ebiquity and Gain Theory)
  • In the long term, TV advertising creates 71% of total advertising-generated profit at an ROI over 3 years of £4.20 for every pound spent – also the highest of any media. (Ebiquity and Gain Theory).


Stats such as these make a watertight case for TV advertising. So, you make it part of your marketing strategy. This is where everything begins. But what actually happens?

Every commercial you see is a small work of art. It’s taken anything from a few people to a few hundred to get it made, polished and broadcast. Knowing the details of that process is essential if you’re going to produce a compelling, engaging commercial for your own brand (or client’s brand). And it all starts with the creative brief. So, let’s get the ball rolling…

Talk to your target audience

Your brief should also identify the target audience and the best way to engage them. What you create must resonate – what tone would be appropriate? This will determine many other factors including the platforms you choose. Get into your audience’s mindset. What will grab their attention and get them fired up?

Then there’s the practicalities: budgets, timings, formats – where the advert will run and how long it needs to be. A key consideration is where you want the ad to be used. Most brands are making the most of commercials by adapting them to create content for multiple platforms such as YouTube, Instagram and other social media channels. Think about how best to maximise your asset and whether you want to re-version it for other markets and regions. If you think this may be part of your plans, it needs to be in the brief.

Along with the brief, you need to share any brand guidelines that must be included in the considerations of making the content as this may affect production decisions. Tattoos, beards, tattoos of beards… you’d be surprised what clients consider ‘off-brand’.

Cracking the concept

Don’t be afraid to sense check what has been sent to you and provide suggestions if you think it will generate a more effective and evocative film. If you want to create a truly memorable and successful commercial, it’s vital that the concept engages the target audience.

Getting production values right

Where it gets more complex is clarifying the visual aesthetic that the brand wants to use. The production team will always strive to understand and fulfil the production value that’s wanted, and give you the very best product. That means you need to understand the look and feel your brand (or client) is leaning towards. For example, if the concept carries a serious message then you may want something more cinematic, while fun and humorous might require a more vibrant and energetic treatment.

Sorting scripts and stories

There’s often a lot of to-ing and fro-ing at this stage, but it’s vital to stay focused. Got your eye of the tiger on? Good – because there are a lot of creative decisions ahead. This is the point that you establish how the film will play out. Whether the commercial is cinematic or animated or stills or caption-led, you need to input into the storyboards and scripts that have been sent to you as the production team will be using these as the basis of their decisions. Often, you will receive animatics to show how the film will run, giving you a rough idea of the energy and the timings.

Playing by the rules

In the UK (and most countries) there are rules about what you can broadcast. The script will be checked by ClearCast, who use the UK Code of Broadcast Advertising (the BCAP Code) to make sure it’s fit to be viewed. It’s illegal to show commercials that are misleading, harmful or offensive. And if the script makes any particular claims – like a product can make you lose weight – ClearCast will ask for proof.

In creative solutions we trust

When you’ve got your script approved, it’s time to nail down production. For example:

  • Will your commercial feature composed musical pieces or commercial tracks by a famous artist?
  • Which director are you going to use?
  • How are you going to film it?
  • Will you need drones?
  • What about actors and voiceover artists? Who will you cast?
  • What kind of set will you need?
  • What props?
  • And what about wardrobe and stylists?

It’s all enough to make your head spin, but don’t despond.

Whether you’re thriving on the creative challenge or sinking in a sea of indecision, the production team has the expertise to offer sound advice. They’re responsible for providing alternative ways of delivering the proposal that don’t mess with its va-va-voom. You can trust them to come with creative solutions that ensure you stay within budget (even if it’s peanuts).

Location, location, location

Choosing where you film is key and will be led by your script and storyboard. Sometimes, a specific location is needed for an event, a cultural reference, weather conditions or an activity. But bear in mind that your budget may not stretch to three-week shoot in the Seychelles. If that’s the case, you may need to come up with a cost-effective alternative that gives you the aesthetic you’re looking but remains within your price point.

Annnnd action!

Shoots are often regarded as the most exciting and glamourous part of the process. Don’t be fooled. Although they can be fun, there’s often an awful lot of well… just standing around. It can take a long time to get everything set up for the perfect shot. Shoots can involve a couple of people or an entire army, depending on the concept’s scale and ambition. A typical crew could include caterers, a health & safety officer, wardrobe, stylists and actors.

Post-production – the last leg

Once the footage has been shot, it goes to our in-house video editing facilities. Here, tiny elves – sorry, skilled professionals – sit in darkened rooms, cropping, splicing and dubbing to make the ad the client expects. Once the client has signed off the edit, we begin the grade to colour correct and stylise so we achieve the right effect. There might also be overlays added – text or visuals that appear on top of the film. The sound is engineered and enhanced too, so it works in perfect harmony with what’s being shown on-screen.

At this post-production stage, editing professionals can also cut the film into smaller deliverables for social media or other platforms. However, the video will need to have been shot with this in mind, as different platforms have different ratio requirements. That won’t be a problem in your case, because you flagged all that up in the original brief.


You’ll now have a beautiful gem of an ad that’s all ready to run. The final cut been buffed to perfection in post-production and is just waiting to wow its audience. Before that can happen, there’s one more visit to ClearCast to check it does what it says on the tin. ClearCast make sure the commercial has stuck to the approved script before giving their blessing for broadcast.

Ok. Let’s rewind a second to before this all kicked off. At some point, some clever media bods will have come up with media plan in advance. This will dictate how long the advert runs for and where it is shown. It’s time for that plan to come into play. Bingo: your TV commercial is live!


You’ve done your planning; you’ve had the shoot and now the ad’s been broadcast. The process is done. But your TV commercial will still be bringing value. Now’s the time to evaluate its impact and see if it’s helped the brand to achieve its goals. How many people have viewed it? Have their perceptions changed? Have sales improved? If you’ve done everything right, there should be measurable ROI. In the long-term, in the three years after ad campaigns had finished, 86% of TV advertising campaigns delivered a profitable return, according to a report by Ebiquity and Gain Theory.

The task of producing an ad can be daunting, especially if you’ve never done it before. There’s a tremendous amount to think about – and getting just one element wrong can jeopardise your commercial’s success. Engaging your target audience, choosing your platforms shrewdly and getting the tone and message right are crucial if you want to meet your goals. To make sure your ad’s remembered for all the right reasons, you need the best people on your team.

Eric Productions is part of the Maverick Group. Skilled production specialists, we can help with everything from film and animation, to photography and 3D. With BAFTA-winning directors, full-brand production, sound engineers, 3D-model animators and more, Eric Productions can magic up your perfect ad. Just give us a call.