As a production company, we are often asked this question: “How much does it cost to produce a 60-second tv commercial?” seems like a simple enough question right? Well, in reality, it is much more complex than it looks. Asking this question is like asking an architect how much 1 house costs to build, or asking a car salesman how much does 1 car cost. There are so many variables and preferences that will determine the true budget. With that being said when it comes to TV commercials the main driving factor of the budget is going to be the concept.
The concept determines the budget because it determines all the things needed to produce the commercial. For example if your concept is a single employee on a white backdrop talking about your company that is a pretty simple concept, but if your commercial is about how everyone in the world uses an iPhone you can imagine that there is a big difference in cost. Here are a few key parts of a concept that affect your budget
Does your concept require actors? If so how many? Each actor will add to your budget because you will have to cast for the actors, host auditions, pay the actors for their time, and pay for usage releases. Depending on the role of the actors you can expect to pay anywhere from $ 1,000 – $ 5,000/ per actor. (Celebrities and influencers can increase this cost dramatically.)
Does your concept require you to rent a location? Or multiple locations? Some commercials can work with freely sourced locations like the companies office, an employees house, etc. but often times you will need to rent your locations and that requires searching for locations, doing location scouting to find the best fit, paying for the renting the location, insurance on the rental, permits and cleaning. You can normally expect to pay anywhere from $ 2,500 – $ 10,000+ per location rental.
Props and Wardrobe
This is an element often overlooked but can really add up and drive your budget higher. If your concept takes place in a home or an office and you can use the props/ wardrobe that is normally there on a day to day basis than you don’t have to worry. But if your concept involves lavish ideas like spaceships, lavish scenes, out of the box elements you may get stuck with needing to purchase, rent or even build some elements for your commercial.
Most commercials don’t require the level of VFX seen in a Michael Bay film, but you would be surprised how even small effects can increase the cost of the commercial. Commercials that require elements like greenscreens, set extensions, explosions or other VFX will have an increased cost for each second of the effect.
Lastly and most expensive will be the number of production days needed to produce your commercial. Some simple concepts are able to be produced in a single production day while others that require multiple locations or due to schedules require multiple shooting days. Each shooting day can almost double your production cost so it can be a huge factor to consider. Often productions will look for single locations that could be used as multiple locations to keep these costs under control.