Creating a Budget for a TV Commercial

April 21, 2017

The question almost every marketer asks at some point of their career is “How much does it cost to produce a television commercial?”

$5,000

$10,000?

$200,000?

$1,000,000?

More?

Like almost everything else in video production, the answer is “It depends.” For one thing, commercial budgeting has gotten a lot more complicated over the years. What used to be a simple set of costs are now a spectrum of possibilities across many media. Still, there are certain factors that affect the cost of a commercial. They include:

Length

Cost relates directly to length. The longer the commercial is, the more footage has to be filmed… and the more it will cost to produce. The number of versions of a spot can also increase the cost.

Location

If there’s more than one location, it’s going to take longer to shoot since the crew and equipment will need time to move from location to location. Not only does it take time to get from one place to another, it takes a lot of time to set up and break down all the equipment as well. Traveling expenses are required to get the film crew from one location to the next, and you may have to pay rental costs or other fees (i.e. insurance) in order to film in certain locations.

Crew Size

The more people that are required on the production crew, the more expensive it will be. And the level of complexity required to acquire the shots determines crew size. At the very least, your crew will need a Director, a Producer, a Director of Photography and/or Camera Operator and Sound Man.

For larger shoots, you may need a full camera crew (1st Assistant Camera, 2nd Assistant Camera, Steadicam Operator, etc.), an Assistant Director, Grip and Electric crew, Makeup, Hair and Wardrobe people and Production Assistants to help with all the small details. And don’t forget Craft Services… your crew needs to eat!

Equipment

If all you need is a camera and a tripod, then the equipment won’t cost much to use. However, full scale commercials can use a variety of equipment, including dolly tracks, sliders, drones, steadicams, jib arms and more.

Equipment costs depend on the size of the crew as well. Each crew member will have equipment that he/she will need. A single-day shoot using a three-person crew will cost less than a crew of 10 with a complete camera and equipment package.

Talent

Sometimes when you’re producing a commercial, it’s enough to feature yourself or a few real customers or employees. Other times, it becomes clear that you’ll need to employ professional actors to do the job. Their rates can vary widely depending on location, experience and whether they are union or non-union.

Post Production

How much time gets spent in post production varies depending on the amount of raw video an Editor must sift through and how complicated the story is to tell. Some commercials require simple graphic elements and while some are completely animated. The rule of thumb – the more graphics you have, the higher the cost will be.

Final Thoughts

Although commercials costs can range dramatically depending on different factors, many production companies are willing to work with you to stay within budget. Not only can they work with varying budgets, they can also create payment plans so that you don’t have to worry about having a smaller budget affect the quality of your commercials.

So don’t give up on that dream of producing a commercial for your company yet. With proper planning it can still be in reach.

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