Sainsbury’s Christmas ad

28th November 2014

The Clear View – Sainsbury’s Christmas ad


Christmas ads are now hotly anticipated.  In recent years, particular retailers’ campaigns have been  trailed with significant amounts of publicity in advance of their first broadcasts and attract large audiences when  they get to air.


The Sainsbury’s Christmas ad, which this year focused on the well-reported 1914 Christmas day truce and football match between British and German soldiers in no-man’s land has attracted a lot of attention  and resulted in over 700 complaints to the ASA.  The complaints related mainly to offence caused through the use of a First World War event to advertise a commercial company.


At Clearcast, Christmas arrives very early with plans for Christmas advertising often being discussed in summertime or before. We started discussions with Sainsbury’s on this ad in April of this year, well in advance of filming.


We recognised that the subject matter could heighten viewers’ sensitivities about the First World War and were aware of the likelihood of some viewers finding the use of the War for commercial purposes offensive, particularly in the year of the Centenary.  We discussed these matters in detail with the agency, specifically asking for confirmation of the support the proposed approach had from the Royal British Legion and discussing the need for a reference to this support to be included in the ad.


We also had detailed internal discussions, considering the rationale behind the campaign and the Royal British Legion support for it.  We thought the issue was handled sensitively and that care was taken to ensure historical accuracy.  On balance, we decided the ad was not likely to breach the broadcast advertising rules (BCAP Code) by causing serious or widespread offence.


The ASA has now considered the complaints it received about the ad and has confirmed that it will not formally investigate them.  The ASA, in line with Clearcast’s view of the ad, considers the ad did not breach the Code and was unlikely to cause serious or widespread offence.  That’s a great early Christmas present for Sainsbury’s and for Clearcast.


Niamh McGuinness, Head of Copy Clearance at Clearcast

Are your ads safe?

26th November 2014

As well as checking ads for compliance with the BCAP rules, all ads for broadcast are subject to technical checks before they can be cleared by us.


We check the height, duration and legibility of all super imposed text and we also test for flashing images to ensure that ads comply with Ofcom’s Guidelines on Flashing Images and Regular Patterns in Television.


The guidelines were drawn up with the aim of reducing the risk of exposing TV viewers that suffer from photosensitive epilepsy (PSE) to potentially harmful stimuli.


The Ofcom guidelines can be found here.


The Guidance sets out limits for potentially harmful flashing, rapidly changing image sequences and potentially harmful regular patterns that shouldn’t be exceeded.


Advertisers should understand that these are limits, not targets, and should take care to ensure all ads are produced well within the limits outlined.  The closer ads are to the technical limits, the greater the risk is that they will cause seizures in susceptible viewers.


All ads uploaded into Adway and CopyCentral are tested using the Harding’s HFPA-X V3.4.0 algorithm. It is possible that the uploaded file fails and the delivery master (which is higher quality) passes.



If an uploaded file fails,  as described above, we will accept a valid flashing certificate, uploaded as substantiation, to prove the actual broadcast file meets Ofcom regulations.


Clearcast currently only accept certificates from Harding’s HFPA-X system.


The Digital Production Partnership (DPP) have issued a list of PSE testing products that they say “competently perform PSE testing in the context of file-based QC”. See here for more information. We are currently reviewing these devices to determine whether we can accept certificates from a wider selection of PSE devices.


A checklist for our requirements for Flashing Certificates can be found here.