How to Write a Winning Video Script

The beating heart of any good piece of visual media is the story it’s telling, and this is especially true for brand videos. It is the story performing the act of the ‘sell’, not the product advertised. This makes the scripting process the most important part of producing a brand video, as it is, to some degree, the conduit through which a product’s selling potential is realized.

So, here’s how to make your script shine…


Find Your Angle

Before writing either a treatment or an outline, you must first find your angle. What do you want to say and how do you want to say it? And when asking yourself this question, you should also take into account your target audience and the value you’re bringing to their lives. Look at this old Macintosh commercial, part of “The Computer for the Rest of Us” campaign…

Their angle was ‘ease of use’ and it permeates the entire video – from the simplicity and style of the voice over (performed in a calm, archetypal masculine tone, to denote trust and reliability) to the mise en scène (the arrangement of the scenery). We’re presented with a beige bag in a pure white space. A single hand enters the frame to unzip the bag and then lift an entire computer out of it. The computer’s then placed in front of the camera, face forward, ready for use.

Upon establishing your objective, write a script that, in every way, expresses the very essence your objective.


Build a Narrative

Just as a fiction novelist would craft their narrative arc, your commercial needs a beginning, middle and end. Don’t just present key information and unique selling points to the brand’s prospective customers, guide them through the commercial and give them an experience to remember. You must take into consideration both what you want them to learn and how you want them to feel. As brand videos are very short (the shorter the better), you have to emotionally hook your audience from the very beginning. This can be done in many ways, such as employing visually unusual techniques or beginning with a piece of proverbial dialogue (be it diegetic or as part of a voice over) that works well enough out of context to pique the interests of the brand’s prospective customers. We humans are naturally curious creatures, if we hear or see something interesting, we are compelled to make sense of its context. HSBC’s “Life As We Know It” commercial stands as a good example of how visually unusual techniques and an interesting first line of dialogue can draw viewers into a commercial’s narrative.

Note how effective the commercial was despite its audio and visual quality. The script is king!


Choose the Right Tone

Find a tone that suits both the narrative and your client’s wishes. What emotions do you and/or your client wise to inspire in people? Funny commercials tend to do well but the principle is to strike whatever tone you need to make your commercial memorable.


Edit to Perfection

Treat every script you write like a work of art. Because it is. Your aim is to express your vision in the most efficient way you possibly can. This involves rewrites to include a language style that matches your target market, as well as removing unnecessary information or embellishments for the sake of runtime. Commercials are, typically, no more than a minute long (but aim for 30 seconds) because people have low attention spans and nobody appreciates having their favorite show interrupted by a product they didn’t know they needed.


Present Your Work to Your Partner or Close Friend

This is the most important step. After proofreading your work (several times over), make sure you’re not fooling yourself into believing you’ve written the next Cadbury’s commercial by getting an outsider’s perspective. In fact, the more opinions you hear on your work, the better – you’re able to look for consistencies in critique and make more educated changes.