How to distill a script to the right length for your demo. Part 2 of 4.

Edge Studio

NOTE: This is the second post in a 4-part series. Click to read  Part 1  …  Part 3  …  Part 4

Last week, we demonstrated how to turn a print ad into a radio or TV commercial demo script. But for a Commercials demo, your cuts should each be 10 seconds (or so) at most. So now, let’s look at how to distill it down to the mere 5-10 seconds you’d want to use. (Note: Demo cuts in some other genres tend to be a bit longer.)

You’ll also see how, as in preparing a sauce, this “reduction” process often makes the script tastier!

As we demonstrated in Part 1, you can start with almost any decent print text, such as a magazine ad, a brochure, information in an encyclopedia, corporate training manual – whatever seems interesting, well suited to you, and right for the genre you’re demo-ing. You’ll also want to have some variety in your collection of clips.

How to cut copy down to 5-10 seconds

The original:

I have a problem when it comes to ice cream. I can’t make an ice cream cone with less than 5 scoops. Because every time I start scooping Froball ice cream, I start thinking of all the reasons I love it. How do I lick this problem?

Now get out your blue pencil (or, if you used to work at Time Magazine, a green one), or your delete key, and weigh every word:

  • Pare it down to essential thoughts
  • Don’t repeat unnecessarily
  • Delete unneeded words
  • Replace “wordy” phrases with single words

The results:

I have an ice cream problem. I can’t make a cone with less than 5 scoops. Because when I scoop Froball ice cream, I think of all the reasons I love it. How do I lick this problem?

You could even replace “when I scoop” with “with”.

These scripts are meant just as thought-starters, to demonstrate how the same basic message can be delivered in various ways. Alternatively, you could use just about any good benefit or “reason why” as the hook for your script. For example:

  • Suppose you were an ice cream fan in 1895, and you’ve just discovered this wonderful ice cream but nobody has yet invented the cone. Can you think of silly or interesting alternatives to using a dish and a spoon?
  • Or how about an imaginary timeline of all the “improvements” that people suggested over the years … that were rejected.
  • Or maybe you’re a character who has proposed all those bad ideas, all rejected, and you’re getting really frustrated. So to feel better, you have a bowl of ice cream!

To be aware of all the various ways a commercial can be written, we suggest you make note of the various types of scripts you that you encounter in your daily listening and viewing. For example, among commercials there are also testimonials, hard-sell sale spots, emotional appeals, tags, and many more approaches. Use one that shows off your strengths. For example, to show emotional range, you could try something like this …

… So, here goes, FIVE scoops on one ice cream cone! (SFX: PLOP!)
Oh! It fell !!??? I’m so … wait, it fell back into the container! So okay – five scoops. But this time … in a dish.

Too long again!! Which leads to another tip …

As with a baking recipe, shortening often makes it better!

So, cut mercilessly, distilling it down to your absolute best moments. Don’t give the listener an excuse to click away. Often when you focus this closely on what you’ve written, you will also think of a funnier or more “realistic” line:

Arrgh! I dropped my FIVE scoop ice cream cone! I’m so … wait, it fell back into the container! What? You never ate out of the container?

Note that we cut the length a lot, but it still lets you show two emotions. And the ending is funnier.

There are unlimited scenarios, and you only need a 5 to 10 seconds that work. (That’s a luxury not granted to copywriters writing for actual clients. Another luxury is that if your script is a few seconds too long or too short, only you will know. The important thing is that the bits used on your Commercials demo are about 10 seconds long at most.)

There are also a lot of other “rules” for audio writing, such as “avoid tongue-twisters and awkward phrases.” But as trained VO talent, you’ve probably encountered and surmounted many of them. Just keep it real – if you make it artificial, not like people actually talk, your script will sound like one of the Stepford Wives.

In your pretend script, you might or might not want to include a real or imagined brand name. There are differing schools of thought as to that.

On one hand, if you’ve done a good job of writing, a real product name sounds more genuine. On the other hand, some casting pros know who’s voiced the biggest spots – and if they do, they’ll know that you’ve faked it.

See our other articles (links below) for other important considerations.

By the way, don’t use any of these scripts for your demo, because then your demo would not be unique. You can use some of our Practice Scripts as models for writing your own, but again, do NOT use them on your demo, either. Too many people will have heard them before.

Part 1: Turn print copy into a commercial script for your VO demo.
Part 3: Can you turn print copy into a VO demo script for any genre?
Part 4: Turn print text into VO demo scripts in yet more genres.


Can you use copyrighted material in your demo? (Part 1 of 2)…

Can you use copyrighted material in your demo? (Part 2 of 2)…

Should you write your own demo copy?…

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