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Terry Berlandby Casting Director, Terry Berland

Analyzing Commercial Copy

When do you choose frustration over being a victim and why?

I am going to advise that in a commercial script, choose likeable sarcastic frustration over being a victim.  The exception to this rule is when the voiceover, or the direction you are given by the casting director, tells you that you are a victim.

Here is the reason why.  One basic way the ad agency sells a product is that life is not going so well…you discover the product and voilá, life changes for the better.  That could mean you become more handsome, prettier, better off economically, in better shape, have better relationships, have an easier time, smell better, become more popular, etc.  The list can go on and on.

The script will start out with the problem you are having, then transition into a statement that sums up the problem.  And then there is the transition.  At that point you leave the situation that is giving you the “problem.”  You then switch to the new, better product. Typically, there is then a statement about how your life is working better followed by a statement and a restatement…ending with some kind of button statement.

If you really look at the script you will clearly understand that to be strong enough to leave the situation that is not working, you cannot be the victim type.  The victim type stays stuck in the situation they are in that is not working for them.

If you choose the sarcastic, playful comedic skew at looking at life, you will emanate the feeling that you won’t be taking the situation that is not working for much longer…you have just not yet revealed what you are going to do about it.

If you choose this attitude you are actually an aspirational person.  Viewers will want to be like you and think like you.  After all, you know how to take care of yourself; you know how to make life work.

Let’s take a look at a strong foundational script of this type.

My vacation had a very dull beginning.  Don’t get me wrong, Florida is wonderful.  But I came down on an airline with no movies.  Two-and-a-half hours of looking out the window.  Very boring.  (transition) I’m going back on Delta Airlines.  The only airline with movies at every seat on their wide-bodied planes.  Why be bored on an airline with no movies.  When you can say, “Delta, take me I’m yours.”

I have indicated the transition – the moment this person decides they are not going to be bored any more.  They have decided to make the change.  They switched to the “hero” product.

The choice of victim in the beginning portion before the transition would not work, and here is why.

  1. That person would not have the gumption to make his/her own choice.
  2. The advertising product would not want a victim to represent them because that person does not know how to take care of themselves.  That person does not know how to make the right choices.

The product wants someone who is a winner.  They want someone who is opinionated.  They want someone who won’t tolerate things that are not working in their life.  They want someone who knows how to make the right decisions.  They want a winner, not a loser.

The next time you have a choice to be a victim or not…think twice.  Do you want to be the type of person who is not going to take it any more….or are you the victim who does not know how to get out of the situation you are caught in?


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Terry Berland is an award-winning casting director for on-camera, television, voice-over, and hosting. Her casting awards include Clio, The Houston International Film Festival, Art Director’s Club, Addy, and the International Film and Television Festival. Her former casting staff position for Madison Avenue giant BBDO/NY has lent to her deep understanding and involvement in the advertising industry. She is known throughout the country for her talent development and is the co-author of the how-to industry book,”Breaking Into Commercials.”