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.