Welcome to Clearcast, edition 7 released

26th June 2018

Last year we saw about 32,400 ad scripts and considered more than 61,200 filmed ads.


The scale and scope of the services we provide means sometimes our clients need a hand getting started. So we created this handy guide a few years ago and like to refresh it on a regular basis.


Today we are releasing the electronic version of the 7th edition.


The guide explains how we work with advertisers, agencies, and media companies to get great ads to air and keep them there. It paints a picture of what we do, how we do it and how we can help you.


Download the latest edition of our Welcome to Clearcast brochure


To pre-order your handy A5 copy please email communications@clearcast.co.uk and include your postal address.

How could digital learn from TV?

22nd June 2018

This piece originally featured in Campaign magazine on June 18th 2018.


By Chris Mundy, MD at Clearcast

Photo credit: Colin Stout


Clearcast is celebrating its 10th birthday this year (I know, we don’t look it!), but TV advertising preclearance dates back to the start of ITV in the 1950s. Then, the regional companies debated issues such as whether to accept the word “Cor” in an ad. Skip forward 60-odd years and the issues facing the video ad industry feel urgent and important. Digital advertising is moving at such a pace that brand and consumer-protection are playing catch-up.


Last year’s crisis centred on good ads appearing in bad places. A lot of work has gone on to address that, but there’s still more to do. A CNN investigation found 300 companies, including tech giants, retailers, newspapers and government agencies, ran ads on YouTube channels promoting Nazis, paedophilia and North Korean propaganda.


Clearcast’s focus on UK TV and VoD advertising is to stop bad ads appearing in good places. We work on behalf of quality, largely regulated media to ensure that claims are verified and ads don’t break industry agreed rules or cause widespread offence. We don’t advise on digital advertising beyond VoD for our clients although we’re often approached by companies that feel that digital can learn from TV. Here are some thoughts on this, based on Clearcast’s experience:


  • TV benefits from the fact that every ad can be uniquely identified by a 15-character “clock number”. We clear an ad, that clearance is linked to the clock number, broadcasters receive the commercial and know where and when they can broadcast it. Without the clock number it would be much harder to keep track of the acceptability and scheduling of ads across media outlets.


  • TV clearance is a labour-intensive business. We are mandated to seek verification on every claim, from “the most effective vacuum cleaner” to “price 14.99”. This matters in TV because it is a mass medium and there is particular risk of a large number of people being offended or misled. It would be costly to reproduce the way we work across digital media where volumes are higher and the cost of advertising is far lower.
    However, it would be possible to have a system whereby an accredited competent party (advertiser/ agency/publisher) self-validates its ads against the ad code or triggers third-party validation if they have doubts. Combined with a unique ad identifier, and potentially as part of a blockchain, there would be accountability in the event the ASA were to investigate. Where digital ads don’t come from accredited parties, a simplified compliance process could operate where every ad is reviewed and triaged. Any that warrant concern could go through a simplified compliance process.


  • Clearcast applies standard content indicators to VoD ads. These help media owners place them in appropriate content and make sure that, for example, kids don’t see ads with violence. Again, there is no reason why our indicators or similar ones couldn’t be applied more generally in digital advertising.


  • Over time, personalisation may exist to the point where there is almost no single “ad” as such and, of course, ads are already personalised and created on the fly. These are usually templated, and today for TV we already clear templates for ads that may have automatically generated content such as betting odds, highlighting the risks and ensuring controls are in place.


The Martin Lewis case in the UK highlights that post-hoc action on harmful digital ads may not be sufficient. While a single, centralised copy-clearance body for digital may be unworkable, a centralised mechanism for validating ads and protecting consumers is beginning to look like a requirement.


Clearcast in numbers

  • Clearcast saw more than 61,000 TV ads in 2017, and only 44 complaints on ads were upheld by the ASA for clearance reasons (0.1% of ads seen)
  • Over 95% of the TV ads seen by Clearcast are turned around in two working days
  • More than 2,900 advertisers and agencies have submitted ads to Clearcast in the past three years
  • There are more than 9,000 current advertiser, agency and broadcaster users of Clearcast’s copy-clearance submission system

A view from the ASA

14th June 2018

This was originally written for our special edition 10th anniversary newsletter which published in March this year.



By Guy Parker, Chief Exec of The Advertising Standards Authority.


Congratulations Clearcast on reaching your 10th anniversary. Pre-clearance flies when you’re having fun.  And, without wishing to underplay in any way the importance of your work and the crucial role you play in keeping UK TV ads responsible, I know that fun is at the heart of what you do. That’s helped, of course, by the fact that you (and we at the ASA) are lucky enough to work in a vibrant, creative and dynamic industry that forever throws up challenges, talking points and, often, laughs. Another good reason to celebrate.


As you’ve no doubt been doing, looking back on 10 years provides plenty to reflect on as well as to be proud of. I want to commend Clearcast for evolving to meet the demands of an (almost) ever increasing workload. Servicing the needs of more than 1,500 clients, considering over 32,000 scripts and viewing over 61,000 filmed ads per year is no mean feat and testament to you all for being a dedicated and professional team.


On top of pre-clearance, the support you provide to agencies, advertisers and broadcasters through training, help and advice resources and other services including ad attribution, demonstrates an organisation that is client focussed and committed to delivering added value. And in all of that, you also have us to deal with!


The relationship between Clearcast and the ASA and the question – are we getting on as well as we should – has been ever-present throughout the last decade. I’ve visited this topic before, but now is a good time to reassert my view. From our perspective, the relationship is as good as it’s ever been.


We are two organisations who, on occasion, hold different points of view on issues and who seek to resolve those differences in an open and constructive way.  We are not two organisations set in opposition, forever squabbling and needling away at each other.


As in life, friends and partners can disagree, sometimes passionately, but that doesn’t diminish the strength of their relationship. Often it can bolster it. And what kind of a world would we be living in if the ASA didn’t occasionally reach a different conclusion about an ad, once it was in the public domain, than Clearcast did when clearing it? I venture a world where Clearcast was either playing it too safe with its advice or one where the ASA – tasked with independently administering the rules – was reluctant to do just that.


Of course the relationship needs nurturing and I’m pleased to see how it has grown and developed. Where there have been stumbling blocks we’ve acted – the creation of the cosmetics panel of experts being a good example. Our regular meetings, shared training, inducting each other’s staff and open lines of communication all point to the efforts we each make. On that last point, we set great store by Clearcast’s response on behalf of broadcasters in cases we’re investigating.  Your arguments and your insights don’t always win the day, but they are always respected, considered very carefully and are therefore heavily influential.


Despite the fact ad spend has increasingly shifted online, TV advertising has lost none of its power or resonance. Witness our most recent ‘top ten’ most complained about ads list – nearly all of them TV ads. And consider the past, present and future. Who can forget our supermarket ‘sweep’ and the battle royal between the sector giants over comparative claims? Look at the current debates raging around gambling TV advertising around live sport. And cast an eye to the horizon and the emergence of personalised TV ads. As I said, ad land is dynamic.


We work together effectively, independent in our judgments but aligned in our ambition to enable responsible advertising to flourish.  That’s reason enough to raise a glass. But this anniversary makes that especially so. On behalf of all my colleagues here at the ASA, I’d like to wish everyone at Clearcast a very happy 10th birthday.  Here’s to a successful next ten years.