The Number of Words in Political Ad Scripts
As voiceover talent, it’s not unusual to be asked to fit 45 seconds worth of words into 30 seconds of a commercial. And in that scenario, once in the session, it can quickly become apparent that some edits will have to be made — which is why script word count is so vital to getting a great voiceover.
So, how do you know just how long your commercial will read? How much copy is too much copy?
The answer, my friends, lies in math. But don’t freak out! It’s really not hard math.
The average voiceover talent, speaking in a casual, conversational way (which is the most common direction we are given), says about 2.5 words per second — or about 150 words per minute. So, if you’re looking to fill 30 seconds of a commercial, your script should come in right around 75 words (2.5 x 30 = 75), give or take 10 words, depending on the tone you want to strike. Need to fill a :60? Yep, you guessed it: your script word count should be about 150 words.
What about those :06 ads on Youtube? For those, you only get about 15 words, friends! Make ‘em count.
And what about those really fast disclaimers at the end of commercials, that sound like a political version of an old Micro Machines commercial? For those, you change the standard speed of 2.5 words per second to 3 words per second.
Some important things to note:
- Numbers – If your copy has words like, “Text 56743” in a call to action, your eye (and the word counter in Microsoft Word) will see “56743” as one word. But in reality, when spoken it is five words: “five six seven four three.” This can add extra time onto your script.
- URLs – I think we can all agree that in today’s world, we no longer need to include “http://” or “www.” in front of URLs. They’re either implied or unnecessary, and they eat up precious time in your commercial being said out loud.
- Emotion – If you’re trying to convey any kind of sincere emotion or drama with your ad (inspiration, care, concern, anger, etc.), those things take time. Emotion is communicated not only in the tone of the voice, but also in the tempo — the drawing out of some words and the shortening of others, the slight pauses. Be prepared for the communication of emotion to take more time.