By Jeffrey Hedquist
Many effective radio commercials are stories, or more specifically screenplays. To tell a compelling story that pulls the listener along, try following a proven structure to give shape to the story.
Have a central character with a clear and specific goal, where there is strong opposition to that goal leading to a crisis and an emotionally satisfying ending.
A three-part structure.
Beginning: Set up the story, get the reader’s attention and establish the situation.
Middle: Complicate matters and develop the conflict that rises to a crisis.
End: Conclude the story and resolve the conflict.
Try writing your commercial by first outlining what you want to have happen in each of the parts. Next, create your dialogue for each of the sections, integrating the product or service. Third, rework, polish, edit until you have a strong story to keep the listener’s attention and motivate them to take action.
A typical kind of commercial you’re called on to create is one for a sale. Here’s an example of how to apply this structure.
Beginning: Using the screenplay structure, you might start the commercial with a husband and wife arguing about what to buy with the money they’ll save.
Middle: Their child appears with an emotional crisis that would absorb the money they were going to spend on themselves.
End: Child suggests they spend it on a family trip together that they’ve all been thinking about.
You could make the whole commercial a monologue with your central character having an argument with themselves.
Obviously, there are lots of possible variations of this structure, and the fact that you’re doing a radio commercial complicates things, because you’re not just telling a story, you’re selling something. You may find that using this structure as a model will make your commercials more compelling.
© 2003 Hedquist Productions, Inc.