Word Count Counts

The frugal script writer sees :30 of blank canvas and wants to squeeze in as much copy as possible, getting the maximum bang for their buck. This can often be more detrimental than productive. 

As a script writer, you may not actually be trying to set records with your word count, but you do want to use all the real estate you have available to its fullest potential – we get that. Video landscapes can vary from :06 to :15, :30, :60 or longer, but the intent for all is similar – they are trying to convey a message, not a laundry list of all the information.  But if you are finding that all the information just doesn’t fit, maybe a step up to a longer message is your solution. Splitting the information into two messages, airing in equal rotation, might be another answer.   

Believe me, your voice talent would love to work with fewer, not more words, so they can practice their craft and speak eloquently – giving emphasis to the words that need or deserve it.  There are several excellent word count tools out there, but a common rule of thumb is that approximately 75-80 words per :30 message is a comfortable read that lets the audio talent enunciate with the proper level of dramatization. Yes, you can fit more words into that :30 spot … but do you really want to? For a luxury brand message (Lincoln, BMW, etc.), an even lower word count allows the talent to really shine. If they have to speed through your Jaguar spot, making it sound like a tractor pull promo, you’re going to miss your mark.

Besides word count, here’s the best fail-safe way to determine if your copy is too long … read it out loud yourself! Close your office door if you like, or perform for the rest of the staff, but do it with feeling, the way you’d like it to sound on the air. If you’re having trouble getting through your script in :30, the announcer likely will too.

Cramming a script full of words is kinda like highlighting an entire paragraph – if it’s all highlighted, nothing stands out. Effective ad copy needs room to breathe.  Otherwise, your commercial comes off as one long, crowded, run-on sentence. Less is more!

- Written by Jeff Morlan (Production Manager)