Infomercial scripts may run to 28 1/2 minutes broadcast of air time. Writers may think of a 30-minute script as 35 pages of writing. See, "Infomercial Creative Components | Guide to Infomercial Marketing." But writers sometimes write movements timed at one minute each with the movements consisting of product features.
Interested in writing infomercial scripts or possibly producing infomercials for vendors or advertising agencies or trade show events? If so, here are some instructional suggestions about how to write infomercials for the media. You can work 'culture' into media through the slice-of-life infomercial. You also may wish to listen to my audio lecture on Internet Archive, "How to Write and Produce Infomercials Online."
For inspiration, see local websites such as California Video Production Company | BLARE Media. The point is California is fast becoming a hub of film and video production enterprises from making commercials and infomercials to producing movies. Check out Production Companies - Video in California | ProductionHUB.
Can you start your own business making commercials or infomercials? First you need to learn how to incorporate culture into media and use scriptwriting as a tool to answer the questions viewers might ask about benefits of a product or an issue. Or you present an infomercial to help solve a problem or offer suggestions through marketing and/or information dissemination.
There are a dozen different types of infomercials with different approaches from testimonials to demonstrations, lifestyles to animation, humor, jingles and slices of like in a "tell me why" approach. Here's how it's done.
Operating Your Infomercial Production or Scriptwriting Business
Escape doesn't work in a how-to infomercial. A viewer watching a tape on how to buy real estate doesn't want to be swept away to a castle in a fantasy setting for long. It might work in an infomercial selling a general idea or theory that applies to many people in many jobs, such as how to get power and success in relationships or careers.
Infomercial scriptwriters don't resort to gimmicks. They give information for decision-making by presenting the summarized points in as straightforward a manner as possible for intelligent decision-making. The questions of who, what, how, why, where, and when are answered as in an in-depth straight news article.
The viewers want to be well-informed before they spend their life-savings, their "blood money" on a cable television advertisement. They are wondering whether they can buy it cheaper in a store or at the swap meet as they dial the phone.
Will they be hit with a handling and shipping charge that raises the cost another ten dollars? The customer wonders what happens when they give their credit card number to a total stranger on a toll-free number across the country. Who else will have access to that credit card number?
Some beginning infomercial writers turn out scripts that use the techniques of a Hollywood filmmaker to make people watch. Instead, they should be writing to make people buy one brand over another. There's no correlation between a person liking an infomercial and being sold by it.
Use direct, tough commercials because they work. Hard hitting, informative infomercials and commercials sell a product where the customer is watching solely to get information. Soft-sell imagery doesn't work in infomercials like they do in 30-second commercials selling the imagery of the pleasure of eating a bar of chocolate.
Infomercials emphasize believability, clarity, and simplicity over creativity. Don't write confusion into a script by putting in too much dazzle, sensation, and entertainment that overpower the information and message. The emphasis is on helping the customer make a sensible purchase.
Small budgets often do better than big ones in the infomercial for cable TV production. TV's longest-running commercial which offers a record set of "150 Music Masterpieces" through mail order by phoning a toll-free number, was made in 1968 for only $5,000. It sold millions of dollars worth of records through mail order because of this one television advertisement.
There are a dozen types of infomercials. They include the following:
1) Product demonstration.
Scripts are used for trade show exhibition and continuous loop playing.
Real people on tape add credibility for a product.
3) The pitchman.
A straight narrator delivers a sales pitch on the product to give summarized information in the shortest period of time. This is a talking head short that should only be used for brief commercials or a scene in an infomercial of less than 10 seconds.
This is a dramatization between two people and a product.
In an infomercial or training script, the dramatization is a container that can be used to portray true-life events to teach people how to make decisions or how and where to get information.
5) Socio-economic lifestyle.
The social class of the user is emphasized to show how the product fits into a certain economic class such as blue collar, yuppie, new parent, career woman climbing the ladder, or senior citizen retiree.
Examples are Grey Poupon, the upper-caste mustard selling to social climbers and Miller Beer dedicated to blue collar workers celebrating the idea of the working man and woman being rewarded for hard labor with a cold beer.
Cartoon infomercials sell to children in school and at home. Adults become impatient watching a cartoon demonstration. Animation is expensive to produce for cable television.
Use it only to sell to children or to sell supplies to professional animators in non-broadcast demonstration video tapes used to sell products through mail order or at an animator's trade show or exhibit.
Lyrics work in short commercials because they are remembered. A best-selling board game called 'Adverteasements' makes players recall all the advertising jingles and trivia information from their past. Ask any person in the street to sing the jingle of an advertisement, and chances are he or she will remember the jingle.
8) The mini-feature film with visual effects.
(Case studies don't report that action set in fantasy-scapes sells more products.)
In short commercials humor works well as in "Where's the beef?" In long infomercials, it distracts from the information. Some humor can be used to prove a point in a long commercial. Infomercials sell credibility. Humor distracts from believability.
10) Serial characters.
A fictional character that appears in print ads and short commercials, such as Mr. Whipple or the Pillsbury Doughboy is very effective.
In a longer commercial, viewers will soon tire of the fantasy character and change the channel. Infomercial viewers want to see real people's testimonials, people like themselves with whom they can identify. Keep the fictional character out of a true-story informational commercial. People want references. Give them references who testify why the product works so well.
11. Tell-me-why infomercials.
Give people reasons why the product works as it does and why they should buy it. Reason-why copy works better in print than in a short T.V. or radio commercial. However, in an infomercial for cable, obtaining "tell me why" information is the reason people watch in the first place. Viewers want the writer to go ahead. Make their day.
12. Feelings, Intuition, and Sensation.
Tug at my guilt-strings. Persuasive infomercials use feelings backed up by logical summarized points that prove a point about a product. Move the viewer by writing genuine emotional copy. A dramatization showing a person shedding tears of joy that someone has telephoned long distance is persuasive. It makes viewers feel guilty they haven't called their mother in years. Infomercials emphasize demonstrations, testimonials, pitch-persons, and straight-sell formulas.
A little emotion within a dramatization can be very persuasive. Either it will sell the product or evoke guilt and anger in the viewer for not having lived up to expectations. The viewer could have conflicting feelings.
He may not want to call someone he dislikes because of having suffered emotional abuse in that person's presence. A whole slew of nasty or sentimental feelings totally unrelated to selling the product can be unleashed by one emotional scene in a commercial.
The emotional, "tug at my guilt-strings" type of approach works when selling nostalgia. Emotion persuades people to make more telephone calls, or send more candy and flowers by wire.
Using the emotion strategy in infomercials works well for selling sentiment, communications products, crafts, knitting machines, charm bracelets, products for the elderly, or greeting cards. Look at the success of the long-running AT&T commercial, "Reach Out and Touch Someone." Who doesn't remember that command to extrovert--or be more outgoing?
To write an infomercial that sells, first find out the producer's budget. Then deliver a selling message within the budget and time limits. Turn the sound off. Can you still understand what is being sold? Sight and sound works together. Use sound only to explain what the picture is demonstrating.
Keep the pictures simple. Use words to make an impact, the fewer the words, the better. The more complex the graphics, the few the words are used to explain them. Computer graphics, special effects, and animation are expensive. The stand-up presenter and demonstrator cost much less.
Ninety words can be spoken in 60 seconds. Forty-five words can be crammed into 30 seconds. Many 30 and 60-second commercials contain far fewer words so the viewer can really get the information. Compare this to the print ad which usually runs 1,500 words in a 30-60 second read.
Sell every second the script is on the airwaves. The first four seconds of an infomercial are the same as the headlines of a print ad. The viewer takes four seconds to decide if he/she will sit through the rest of the infomercial or commercial.
Open the infomercial with a real-life situation. It must hook the viewer in those first four seconds. The music and visuals can add the background. The opening is called the cow-catcher. It's supposed to grab the viewer. After seven minutes, the average attention span wanes quickly.
Use motion to keep attention riveted. Show the syrup pouring, the machines working, the demonstrator moving. Let the viewer hear the whirr of the machine as it moves forward. The sound is more appetizing than the look.
Use titles superimposed over the picture to reinforce a sales point not covered in the narration. The address and phone of the company are always superimposed in addition to the narrator's spoken words. What if the viewers are deaf or blind, can they still read or hear the infomercial? Have titles superimposed on the infomercial saying "Not available in stores," when applicable.
Foreign language infomercials for TV
The market for Spanish language infomercials is skyrocketing in the Southwest and in California and Mexico. Bilingual video scriptwriters are in demand. In some of the major cities such as Los Angeles and New York, infomercials in several foreign languages are broadcast on cable television's ethnic and foreign language programming stations or on radio.
Infomercials repeat the product name and selling point
Some video magazines to sell products are made in two languages, especially to reach the huge Hispanic market in California and the Southwest. Every infomercial repeats the product name and selling point several times. Most viewers aren't paying attention when the infomercial comes on. A repetitive script is necessary in this case. The product name and selling point is repeated at the beginning, middle, and end of the infomercial.
Viewers of infomercials get bored quickly if the presenter isn't somewhat different. Use a child who looks five years old, for example, to sell a product emotionally. Have an adult present the summarized points and logic behind the demonstration for credibility.
Show people using the product constantly throughout the infomercial. Product neglect is the primary reason why infomercials don't sell. Show people demonstrating, talking about, and applying the product to many different uses.
Proven techniques in print ads also work in television infomercials, such as color reversals, black background with white letters superimposed over a photo, etc. In infomercials, viewers call or write to order the product.
Announce this at the beginning with something like, "Get your pencil and paper ready to take advantage of this one-time offer." Few people sit down in front of a T.V. set with a notepad. It's entertainment time.
The infomercial is an unwanted intrusion that angers a lot of people. Late night infomercials interrupt late night films. People may be grumpy at 3:00 a.m. or 5:00 a.m. when many infomercials are broadcast. Prime-time cable infomercials interrupt the entertainment. Give people a chance to get out of bed or away from the graveyard shift desk clerk slot and get paper and pencil.
Use a celebrity to do a voice-over or on-camera narration. Identify the celebrity by name and superimposed title. In local retail infomercials, give the directions or address of the store.
Short T.V. and radio commercial basic lengths run 10, 30, 60, and 120 seconds. Infomercials run 5, and 30 minutes. The 30 minute length actually runs 28 1/2 minutes. Infomercial lengths stop short of 30 minutes or 5 minutes to allow for short commercials to be broadcast before and after the infomercial on cable T.V. stations.
The 10-second commercials identify a product to support another longer commercial. Sometimes two different product companies share one commercial--offering two different products.
Mail order advertisers use 2-minute infomercials on TV to be convincing. Then follow up the campaign on cable T.V. with a longer infomercial to give more complete product demonstration. Cooking shows that demonstrate appliances such as food choppers are popular.
A short T.V. commercial sticks to one main sales point. Only in five to thirty-minute infomercials and in print brochures is there the time to cover all the summarized points. So the only reason a person watches an infomercial or reads a lengthy sales brochure is to consider the summarized points.
The video script format for infomercials uses the two-column format. Video (visuals) is typed on the left. Audio (sound, music, speech, and special effects) is typed on the right.
Video directions are given in upper and lower case letters. The audio or speaking part is typed in capital letters so the narrator or actor can see the speaking parts stand out for easy reading or memorization.
Visuals show the product demonstration. The narration tells the viewers the unique features and benefits of the product. Don't tell how good it is. Tell how it will benefit the viewer.
The ending makes the most impact. A play on words can lend humor to the script if it also lends credibility to the product and emphasizes how the customer will save money and get superior merchandise.
If something is more expensive on T.V. than it is when found in the store, sometimes the customer is persuaded by being told he's worth it. The emotional impact hits home by asking, "Don't you think I'm good enough to deserve this product?" It works particularly well on wives who know their husbands are very tight with money and affection.
The customer's attitude toward infomercials is "When someone starts to make money, someone else will appear to take it away."
To combat this psychological attitude, infomercial producers focus on "target marketing." It's the idea of having different promotional videos aimed at various segments of the market. Software manufacturers may aim an infomercial campaign at doctors by sending video tapes to hospitals' training departments and another infomercial campaign aimed at lawyers--for the same computer product.
A writer of infomercial scripts uses numerous testimonials, endorsements, and product claims highlighted by music, hundreds of cuts to the product, to users of the product, to satisfied customers amidst a background of special lighting and entertainment to maintain the viewer's attention for the half-hour commercial.
The average adult's attention span for viewing a non-fiction video is only seven minutes.
The quality of an infomercial writer's script can be carefully measured by audience tracking to see how many orders for the product come in at any time. A video demonstration tape or video magazine acts as a company brochure to sell a product requiring non-impulse buying. The customer still has to come into a store or send away for the product, such as real estate.
This is the age of product intelligence for video scriptwriters. Consumers demand real information. Information has turned the word 'sell' into a noun as in information becoming "real sell."
Infomercials on television advertising became popular when the cost of buying time on cable television became low. Advertisers can afford to run five minute to half-hour commercials on cable.
The video scriptwriter of infomercials needs to give complete information and a sales pitch at the same time. Interactive technologies allow viewers at home or corporate viewers at the office or plant to choose which segments of an infomercial they wish to see instead of flipping through a parts catalogue.
Corporate viewers now use their computer keyboards to order products seen on a video tape linked to their computer through desktop video devices. Desktop video enables viewers to interact with a personal computer at home or in the office and with a video cassette tape played on a home or office VCR player and send out orders through a computer modem to anyone's telephone number, usually, with a toll-free 800 number.
Consumers are hungry for information by which they make decisions. A video writer puts in information and leaves out the jingles and other frills seen on short T.V. broadcast commercials that imprint the brain and wring the emotions.
In one survey, 68 percent of viewers said that short commercials don't give any summarized points about a product. They only create an image. An infomercial is designed to give summarized points. It's similar to a product demonstration tape script or an instructional video.
Information alone is not remembered. The viewer will always take images emotionally. A creative writer's tendency to achieve dramatic results by waiving the rules works in short commercials where style and form evoke more emotions than substance.
For example, a black background with white lettering where the white lettering is printed over or with a photo background imprints the brain. People remember a reversed color advertisement better than white background with black letters.
The success rates of infomercials that break the rules are unpredictable. Video copywriters use what works to obtain consistently high sales results. In any bookstore the how-to books dominate and appeal to the mass audience reader. People come in for straight information when they want to make decisions on what to buy or how to build it.
Writing Infomercial Scripts
Use symbolism and metaphor in your infomercial. A script can visualize the waves of the ocean, flow of a river, or waterfall, or ticking of a clock with the handles sped up to show the passage of time or evolution of a species. A toy crane truck can recreate an accident to teach decision-making.
Use symbolism and metaphor on camera to re-create the events of your life as they flow, perhaps, by showing the flowing river near a client's hometown. Symbolism creates new meanings in a script. The symbol must be recognizable by the audience and cross-cultural. What works in one culture may be taboo in another. Find out what the taboo colors are for the country the video will go to.
For example, in Saudi Arabia, red may be a taboo color, but not green. Writing is never shown in red ink. In China certain shades of blue signify death. Exporters who featured blue dishes in China found the products didn't sell because of the shade. Color symbols are important if the recording is headed for export.
In video production, symbolism is used in corporate history videos to show the change of a company's product. It can also show someone age on camera or grow up from childhood. Metaphor compares a person to another object.
In an infomercial (to publicize someone's color consulting franchise whose logo is a rose), show the main character or proprietor to symbolize her logo. She is like a rose and is selling a product that is supposed to remind the viewer of everything a rose symbolizes. The product is like a rose. It's colorful, sweet-scented, and blooming.
To symbolize this imagery in a video script, cut to the leading character's velvet, black hair and pouting, red lips. Then cut to a bouquet of dark, red roses-- then back to the character walking through her home dressed in the same shade of red to form a certain imagery of the soul of Spain or a wild, Irish rose.
Then a quick cut to her business, a color consulting firm, where she's matching the red shades of a lipstick to a client's best colors. Then cut to your logo stationery, a red rose. A final cut to a bouquet of red roses is placed in her arms as she welcomes her new baby home, named Rose. (The client may want the baby to turn into the business logo on camera.)
How do all these containers fit together in an infomercial?
A video script's design is composed of all those containers, edited together, fitted side by side. The summarized points plus the container adds up to (or equals) the springboard.
A creative springboard is the sum total of each container and each summarized point combined, edited together, fitted so that the whole video or film flows like one piece of cloth with no seams or hanging threads. Is the script sound-oriented for radio, or audio-text?
A visually-oriented script with fewer words is filled with symbolism and metaphor instead of straight summarized points. Which creative springboard does the producer define?
Time is budget. A sound-oriented or verbal script's purpose is to persuade, to inform, to warn, to close a sale, to obtain feedback, or to be remembered. A visually-oriented script is there to entertain, evoke emotions, and imprint the imagery on a viewer's brain which will be recalled later without thinking. It's subliminal.
Verbal-oriented video scripts offer information that enable viewers to make intelligent decisions about a product or service. Subliminals imbedded in an infomercial are never revealed verbally. Infomercials and information videos work on the left-hemisphere of the brain, the logical, analytical, decision-making side that seeks verbal information.
Visual-oriental scripts work on the right hemisphere of the brain that controls emotions and imagery. That's where subliminals are imbedded, and art forms evoke feelings.
One day a viewer daydreams about that candy bar shown on television next to the image of a beautiful woman in flowing chiffon making romantic gestures. Who can forget the Nestle's chocolate bar lyric in the background that begins, "Dreams like this..."?
Many writers who specialize in writing direct mail order copy (what many people call third class or "junk mail") also write infomercials and commercials for video or broadcast television.
Video and audio tapes are sent by mail order along with print advertising copy and information to customers. Video newsletters may also be included. Direct mail order copywriters for video or print write advertisements, sales letters, and demonstration video scripts to obtain orders for products such as magazine subscriptions and insurance.
A company purchases computer-sorted mailing lists of people in certain geographical, income, professional, ethnic, or age groups. The demonstration tapes or video newsletters are sent to potential customers to motivate viewers to buy a product by direct mail order.
An audience-tracking study is followed up to measure the effectiveness of the written copy or the video script. If many products sold through mail order, the writer is judged excellent. The writer's income goes up. The freelancer is now in demand by infomercial producers and direct mail order copy publishers.
Anyone watching an infomercial is an information seeker. A sales video, like a feature film, informs as well as sells escape.
The reason to write a nonfiction video script is to create grounds for a decision from the viewer's end
A decision is made not only about a product or service, but about those who identify with the product or feel repelled by the tape. Infomercial producers may set their own guidelines to battle poor public perception of the long-form commercials. The National Infomercial Marketing Association (NIMA) requires members to produce programs based on truthful information in compliance with laws and regulations.
Guidelines cover crucial issues such as sponsorship identification, program production, product claim substantiation, testimonials and endorsements.
Remember the 1990s-era National Infomercial Marketing Association's guidelines for members? If you're writing scripts for infomercials, as a writer, you might work into the script the ways in which customers can order and pay for the product. What kinds of prices are fair? Can the customer buy it cheaper in a discount chain? Then why would he order from cable T.V. and pay more? Is it sold in the stores? Are similar and competing products sold in stores, but this product is sold only on T.V.?
The writer must write copy to sell at the client's prices, sometimes knowing in advance that the customer can get it cheaper in the store than by ordering from T.V. Also, what warranties are on the product? What guarantees do the claims make on T.V.? What are the guidelines for refunds?
You can produce and/or write direct mail copy for advertising agencies, direct mail firms, and manufacturers. Also, sales videos may be produced for realtors, marketing research firms, distributors, and any company wishing to create an advertisement on video tape to mail out to customer's homes.
Has your city has been used as a location set for filming movies? So how about setting your infomercials in your home town? Video producers can make extra money by producing and writing infomercials, which are broadcast direct mail marketing ads and audience tracking of television viewers who shop by watching television. For more information, browse my paperback book, Writing, Financing, & Producing Documentaries - iUniverse.
Direct mail copywriting and producing for video telemarketing is one of the highest paying freelance writing available. How would you like to get into the field of direct response production? It's one way of looking at the media through the 'eyes' of culture. And with journalism jobs getting scarcer to find after graduation, how about starting your own direct response production company on a neighborhood budget?
Check out my free podcast on how to write infomercials for the media at Or see, How to Write and Produce Infomercials : Anne Hart: Free Download . Or listen to the audio at Internet Archive.
Instruction on how to write and produce 28 1/2 minute infomercials by retired book author of 86 paperback books. Books and several educational how-to videos for persons interested in creative writing instruction, genealogy/creative genealogy writing, and personal history careers also are listed at the EPTD blog.
Please check out my book, How to Start, Teach, & Franchise a Creative Genealogy Writing Class or Club: The Craft of Producing Salable Living Legacies, Celebrations of Life, ... Events, Reunion Publications, or Gift Books by Anne Hart 330 Pages, Published 2008.
It's easy to start, teach, and franchise a creative genealogy writing club, class, or publication. Flesh out each category with your additional research and resources. Start by looking at the descriptions of each business and outline a plan for how your group operates.
Flesh out each category with your additional research pertaining to your local area and your resources
Your goal always is to solve problems and get measurable results or find accurate records and resources. Or research personal history and DNA-driven genealogy interpretation reporting.
You also can make keepsake albums/scrapbooks, put video online or on disc, and create multimedia text and image with sound productions or work with researching records in archives, oral history, or living legacies and time capsules. A living legacy is a celebration of life as it is now.
A time capsule contains projects and products, items, records, and research you want given to future generations such as genograms of medical record family history, family newsletters, or genealogy documents, diaries, photos, and video transcribed as text or oral history for future generations without current technology to play the video discs.
Or start and plan a family and/or school reunion project or franchise, business or event. Another alternative is the genealogy-related play or skit, life story, or memoir.
Related Video & Media Opportunities
Writers who specialize in writing direct mail copy for both print mail order and video infomercials headed for cable T.V. can create thriving writing and/or producing businesses catering to telemarketing and mail order copywriting corporate clients or write in-house for firms that do telemarketing.
You have a choice of either writing or producing an infomercial or doing both. An infomercial is a long commercial video, running to a half-hour in length, but usually precisely timed at 28 1/2 minutes. It's created to sell by telemarketing. The best infomercial producers use around 400 cuts with music. Many people are interviewed in the infomercial.
Infomercials wait for audience response. The viewer orders the product or service by phoning a toll-free number or sending money to an address flashed on the screen to order the product.
A demonstration video script that solicits audience response through telemarketing on cable stations, or a video biography script for non-broadcast television personifies and proves a point. Read the book Response Television, by John Witek, Crain Books, Chicago, IL. (1981), to get an idea of how response television works. Also read Television and Cable Contacts, Larimi Communications Associates, Ltd. New York, NY 10018.
Video producers of infomercials charge by the hour plus production expenses. The current fees vary with location and complexity of job required. Some producers charge $35 an hour plus expenses of production. Others create a budget with all expenses first, including cost of tape and crew's requirements, then add an hourly fee, plus the post-production editing and distribution expenses.
Infomercials can be produced on-site at any location of a business. Being near your clients helps. Big centers for production of infomercials include Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Diego, New York, Chicago, and Orlando, Florida. San Francisco is the hub for multimedia and interactive infomercials, including the San Jose/Silicon Valley area for the software infomercials.
It's best to read books or take courses in video production or read articles on how to produce infomercials before you begin. Join professional associations and volunteer. Attend trade shows for infomercial producers and watch a variety of infomercials. Study the number of cuts in popular infomercials.
Aptitude or Experience
Creativity, imagination, and experience with a variety of sales and marketing alternatives are beneficial. You're always offering the benefits and advantages of a product. Therefore, sales and marketing training combined with video production experience or coursework is best. It will save you money if you can write your own scripts as well.
Video Equipment Needed
You'll need your video camera, narrator, host, editing equipment or access to video editing services, your video crew, and a good sound stage or work area to tape the commercial. There should be an audience, and special effects to show the phone number and address where television viewers can phone or send in the order for the product. You'll need to hire operators who take the call on a 24-hour basis. Charge related phone expenses to your client's budget.
Use your computer to track your customers so you'll have a list of television viewers who shop after watching infomercials. Watch infomercials and note the special effects used.
Resources you may be interested in include my audio lecture on creating infomercials. Check out the audio lectures on Internet Archive: Five Lectures on Salable Essay Writing, Creative Genealogy Writing, and How to Write and Produce Infomercials Online. The audio lecture is instructional on how to write and produce 28 1/2 minute infomercials. Books and several educational how-to videos. Or check out the audio podcast, "How to write an infomercial script." You may wish to check out this (audio) podcast, "How to write and produce infomercials online."