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The Film Crews Needed to make Commercials

It’s also not just the advertising agency and the clients who are involved in the making of a commercial, you also have the craftsmen and talent needed that includes: Talent; Director, Assistant Director, Production Assistant, Director of Photography, Camera Operator, Assistant Cameraman, Electricians, Grips; Sound Mixer, Boom Man; Art Director, Make-Up Artists, Teamsters, Wardrobe Mistress, Nurse; Music conductor; Carpenters; Hairdresser, Stylist; Drivers; Editor; Editor Assistant; Projectionist; Optical Laboratory, Developing and Printing; Technicians; Insurance and so on. 

The “Producers Net” of creating a commercial in the mid fifties with a full crew could average between $15,000 and $25,000. Then you have the Agency costs that would include auditions, copy, storyboards, weather, contingencies, travel, wardrobe, etc. Then the company added on the 17.65% commission standard with members of the American Association of Advertising Agencies. So the client’s costs are now averaging between $25,000 and $35,000 for a single 60-minute commercial.


The only companies that could afford even thinking in this ballpark of advertising dollars were major corporations like Proctor & Gamble; Shell Oil; Ford Motors; Kellogg’s, Ballantine Beer, Kodak, H.J. Heinz, General Foods, Phillip Morris, R.J. Reynolds, Miles Laboratories, Johnson & Johnson, Bulova, or General Motors. It also helped turn these companies into household names when the dramas made for television with a leading movie star were introduced on The United States Steel Hour or The Armstrong Circle Theatre.

In the early 50s Chevy’s first budget was one million dollars, and that was unheard of for that time, and by the end of the decade they were spending ninety million annually and had sponsored three network shows that same year that include My Three Sons, on ABC; Route 66 on CBS and Bonanza on NBC.  The Chevy fight song for that time was “See the USA in Your Chevrolet.” The old jalopies of the James Dean crowd were becoming passé with a more styled futuristic look on the way.

 Many success stories started when family owned companies looking to see what television could do for sales tried to sell their one product line on television like Lestoil the house cleaning solution. In a sales film I discovered and restored called Lestoil: The House that Television Built its inventor Jacob L.Barowsky talks about the way he started packaging the industrial cleaner for home use, and his gradual move into television advertising, region by region, (spot marketing) from a $60,000 annual advertising budget in 1954 to a $5 million budget in 1958, and growth in that same period from 150,000 annual sales to 60 million.