So you want to explore the media or radio, TV and Internet audiovisual media to promote your products, services and brand. These tools can certainly hit home with your target market. But do you want to go with full-blown video commercial spots, or focus on radio spots instead? Can't you just write one script for both media? And if not, why not?
The writing techniques you use will vary depending on whether you're employing both sight and sound or sound alone to make your points. I've written both kinds of scripts, and with very few exceptions, I've found the need to employ a different approach to each, even when both scripts are selling the same product or service. Let's look at how these two types of media stack up.
From a purely presentational viewpoint, video has some obvious advantages over audio-only formats. If a picture is worth a thousand words, then moving pictures can deliver an epic amount of information in a surprisingly short amount of time. The highly compressed nature of visual storytelling makes it ideal for TV commercials, especially when you consider the costs of prime-time advertising. It also allows you to ram home your message quickly and efficiently on YouTube and other video sites in the attention-challenged world of the Internet. A copywriter drafting a video script will typically fill one side of the page with visual descriptions, sound effects and other technical information, with dialogue and/or voiceover text positioned to match on the other side. This format gives the director, actors, and editor an easy-to-follow breakdown of the whole piece, ensuring that no essential elements get left out.
The downside of video is the sheer financial and logistical complexity that required by that extra dimension. Cameras, lighting equipment (and the skilled personnel behind them), location and/or studio sound, costumes, makeup, video editing -- you can rack up a huge bill in a hurry. You'll want to do your homework to make sure that your video spot will tap your target market and deliver substantial ROI.
That leaves radio, podcasts, "commercials on hold," and other audio-driven projects. While audio-only scripts might seem like poorer cousins compared to their sight-and-sound counterparts, the truth is that this format is both more limited and less limited than video when you know how to use it to its full potential. Sure, you can't show things over a radio speaker -- but you can suggest them. And whatever you can suggest, you can afford. You want to have Godzilla destroy the city in your radio ad? Fine. Mix together sound effects of Godzilla's distinctive roar, crowds of people screaming and muttering, and some guy yelling, "Godzilla's destroying the city!" Congratulations -- you've just achieved an effect that would cost zillions of dollars to present on the screen.
On the other hand, the need to describe things for the reader's imagination can eat up precious time, and it can sound pretty stilted as well. I once heard a radio adaptation of the film Forbidden Planet which, while generally well acted, was overstuffed with description: "Hey, what's that?" "Looks like a robot." "Interesting how he has four limbs just like we do." Et cetera. And even though radio spots cost less to run than video spots, you still have to plot your marketing strategy wisely so that the right prospects are hearing your ads at the right times.
Anyway, audio and video can both serve as powerful tools for capturing new customers and retaining old ones -- a long as each type of script is written to play to the medium's respective strengths while downplaying its weaknesses. An experienced, creative copywriter can ask for compelling visual images that won't break the budget, or suggest limitless vistas over the radio waves with a few well-chosen words. Just remember, all scripts are not created equal -- and that's how it should be!