Car Tech ads

23rd November 2018

By Oliver Golden, Senior Copy Group Executive.


We wrote a piece on the topic of car-tech in ads only a year ago but even in that short time a lot’s changed. New technologies have developed and car manufacturers are increasingly highlighting this in their advertising. Recent ASA rulings have shown how tricky it can be to get these ads exactly right in line with the BCAP code, so we thought we’d look at the very latest precedents and address this topic again.


There are two main areas of contention: interactive dashboards that require you to take your hands off the steering wheel and auto emergency brakes that alert drivers to an imminent hazard and helps them use the maximum braking capacity of the car.


To give the regulatory background, the BCAP code requires advertisers to comply with the Highway Code which states that, to ensure safe driving, drivers should avoid distractions when driving. Furthermore, when using in-car technologies drivers must exercise proper control of their vehicle at all times and using hands-free equipment is likely to distract attention from the road. Also, the BCAP code states motoring ads mustn’t exaggerate the benefit of safety features or suggest that a vehicle’s features enable it to be driven or ridden faster or in complete safety.


So how to get yourself a smooth clearance when you submit your car-tech ads to us and get your ad on air (and staying there!)? A useful benchmark is to examine the ads the ASA have ruled on.


In relation to interactive dashboards, the ASA has upheld recently on an ad for the Peugeot 208. It depicted a man reading a text on a dash board screen, the ASA concluded ‘to show a driver reading a text message and then reacting to it, amounted to a distraction.’ This ruling clarifies what may not be allowed regarding dashboard use in future ads.


Although not a TV ad (and therefore not subject to pre-clearance by us), it is worth noting a upheld complaint against Jaguar because in an advertorial in the Guardian, it promoted it’s wi-fi and smartphone connectivity under the banner “Drive time is no longer downtime”. The ASA concluded the ad implied that work related activities could be carried out in your car which encouraged unsafe driving practices.


Examples of ads that were investigated but considered not to breach the Code, include one for Citroen C3 which showed a driver using a built-in camera. The ASA ruled that the driver didn’t appear distracted and was fully in control of the vehicle at all times.


An ad for BMW portrayed a driver swiping his hand across a built-in screen alongside the car’s dashboard. Despite receiving complaints, the ASA didn’t uphold. They ‘considered the driver interacted with the screen only briefly and, when he did, there appeared to be no other vehicles in close proximity and visibility was good.’


Based on these rulings, our advice to those wanting to advertise interactive dashboards, would be to demonstrate them ideally when the car is stationary or failing that, at slow speed with little to no traffic around. Closed-in shots help and drivers should not be shown looking away from the road when they interact with the technology.


The most recent upheld on automatic braking was in an ad for Nissan Micra.  The context was a pilot navigating their way to a plane. The ASA considered that the ad implied the characters were in a rush and that when the emergency brake was deployed, it gave the impression that the driver was able to navigate at speed in a rushed or distracted manner because they could rely on the ‘braking system intervening to help prevent a collision’.


Another recent upheld was for VW Polo. It depicted an accident-prone son been given driving lessons by his father and the in-car technologies helping to counteract the son’s poor driving. The ASA concluded that the ‘dependency on the Advanced Safety Systems exaggerated the vehicle’s safety features and the overall tone of the ad encouraged irresponsible driving’.


Ads that highlight this technology which haven’t been investigated include Citroen C3 which alluded to an ‘absent minded Sam’, who you are led to believe was the driver until a pedestrian steps out in front the car, at which point the v/o points out “…oh and by the way that’s Sam” as the pedestrian waves an apology at the driver.


In keeping within the precedent set by these decisions, we recommend that emergency braking systems are shown in situations that are not the driver’s fault and additionally don’t imply that they are there to aid poor or distracted drivers.


As the technologies continue to evolve, it’s likely that there will be grey areas not directly covered by the Highway Code that will continue to challenge the industry on the best way to highlight how they work, without suggesting they alleviate the responsibilities of the driver.


Your Clearcast Copy Exec will always be happy to talk through any questions on this topic and don’t forget we also have our Copy Development Manager Seb Lynch, if you require extra help in this fast-developing sector.



Clearcast’s MD speaks out on abuse directed at staff following Iceland decision

19th November 2018

By Chris Mundy, Managing Director of Clearcast.

This blog first appeared in Campaign.


It’s fair to say we’ve had a busy week at Clearcast. In case you’ve been at a Himalayan retreat over the past week, the story broke that we had “banned an ad for Iceland for being too political”. The “Rang-tan” ad, originally made by Greenpeace, hit the headlines and social media and spawned a petition that currently has more than 900,000 signatures.


This is the first time Clearcast has been involved in a media storm for some time – and by far and away the biggest. The last time we received a petition was for an ad for the One Campaign in 2011 when social media was in relative infancy.


Here’s Clearcast take on how this story evolved.


Towards the end of October, we let Iceland’s agency know that we were unable to clear the ad. As is usual where Clearcast and an agency can’t reach agreement on a clearance, or where issues require a final view from broadcasters, the submission went to Clearcast’s Copy Committee. This is made up of broadcaster compliance specialists and observers from the IPA and ISBA. The final decision was that, because Greenpeace had made the ad, it fell foul of the rule on political advertisers.


“An advertisement contravenes the prohibition on political advertising if it is: an advertisement which is inserted by or on behalf of a body whose objects are wholly or mainly of a political nature.”


Things went quiet for a couple of weeks, then Iceland put out a press release announcing the release of the “banned” ad on social media. Iceland told us that it had tried to avoid getting Clearcast drawn into the controversy and didn’t mention us by name in the release.


However, unfortunately, the release included some important factual errors:


  • “Advertising regulators banned advert” – Clearcast isn’t a regulator; the Advertising Standards Authority and Ofcom are. We have no power to ban ads; we try to work with advertisers to get them to air.


  • “On grounds of it being seen to support a political issue” – We had clearly told Iceland that the issue was related to the Greenpeace link. Neither we nor the broadcasters considered the ad itself political.


Unfortunately, these errors were compounded by a tweet from Iceland that wrongly said the ad was not approved by “advertising regulators as it was seen to be in support of a political issue”.


That became the narrative that got picked up by traditional and social media, and Clearcast was suddenly drawn into a storm, with hundreds of calls to our switchboard, more than 3,500 emails and 3,000 tweets.


None of the parties involved expected the story to develop the way it did. The Guardian article published on the first day (9 November) was read by more than a million people – this is almost unheard of for an advertising story. And we were certainly unprepared for the deluge of contact.


Unfortunately, this included a substantial amount of abuse and resulted in the team feeling threatened. We had to close our switchboard and subsequently took pictures of our team off the website (they had been circulating on Twitter).


We took our company Facebook page down entirely. It was intended to be a social bridge between staff and agencies, but it was overtaken by abusive comment. We’ve decided that Facebook isn’t a business-to-business platform and the page won’t return.


We respect the confidentiality agreements with our clients (these are mutual and, for advertisers, protect information on their campaigns or claims support being made public) and our initial responses to media enquiries on the first day weren’t as clear as they could have been.


Iceland’s inaccurate statement that the ad was itself political dominated the headlines, causing confusion and anger. On the following Monday, we started responding clearly and openly. This didn’t necessarily swing the opinions of those who didn’t believe our explanation, or thought that we should ignore the rules; however, it did begin to clarify the position for others.


As the week progressed, our messages about the real reason the ad could not be cleared began to get through. Clearcast, Iceland and Mark Topps, who originated the online petition, made various media appearances and different aspects of the story were explored. More third-party voices, including from the industry (thank you!), made the argument for our case.


In any case, as the broadcasters had decided they could not run the ad under the law, Clearcast had in practice no power to reverse the decision at all.


Of course, the winner has been the environmental message that has been widely shared. If that changes behaviour, then that is a good thing. From Clearcast’s perspective, it’s a shame that the team has, to an extent, been collateral damage in getting the message out.


The Clearcast team has been amazing; despite a huge amount of distraction this week, they have managed to keep the wheels of the industry moving and getting your ads to air.

Our response to the Iceland ad petition

13th November 2018

The Iceland/Greenpeace ad has struck a chord with many people in the UK and beyond as is clear from the number of signatures on this petition. It carries an important message and communicates it in a compelling way.


We recognise that over 700,000 people have signed this petition and that, like Mark Topps, they believe that this is an important issue and would like the ad to be seen on television. However, the large number of signatures on the petition unfortunately does not change the legal position. Under broadcasting law, Clearcast and the broadcasters need to establish Greenpeace is not a political advertiser before we clear the ad. As you would expect, we don’t make arbitrary decisions on that and rely on advertisers to provide the information we need to help us make the decision. We haven’t received this from Greenpeace, and until we do, and are sure that Greenpeace does not count as a political organisation, we will be unable to clear the ad.


We have cleared a number of ads for environmental organisations. For example, most recently the World Wide Fund For Nature’s “For your world” campaign but also Friends of the Earth, RSPCA and RSPB. All of these organisations have gone through the same process and demonstrated to us that they are not political advertisers under the definitions of the code.



Clearcast’s role

In the UK broadcast advertising has by law to be precleared before it is broadcast. Clearcast works on behalf of the broadcasters to ensure that ads meet the BCAP rules. The rules about political advertising are set by parliament in the Communications Act and reflected in the BCAP rules.


Iceland Ad

There are important points in the petition that are factually incorrect:


– Clearcast have not banned the ad for being too political. We have no problem with the content or message in the ad.

– Clearcast is not involved in making the BCAP rules, only ensuring that they are met (which is a legal obligation of broadcasters).


The problem arises because the film was made by Greenpeace and the rules prevent adverts “inserted by or on behalf of a body whose objects are wholly or mainly of a political nature” from being broadcast on television.


Greenpeace is a charity and environmental organisation but is also a lobbying and campaigning group with activities that are political as defined by the BCAP Code. This doesn’t necessarily mean that they count as a political advertiser under the rules (as that will depend on what proportion of their overall activities the political ones make up), but we need to satisfy ourselves that they are not before we can clear the ad for TV. We can’t take a view on this until we’ve received information from Greenpeace, and we have not had that to date.


Is it an Iceland or a Greenpeace ad?

We’ve had some queries about why there is a problem at all with the Greenpeace link as the Iceland ad does not include Greenpeace branding. The problem is that, having been running on their social media channels, and even more so following recent publicity, the content is closely associated with Greenpeace and therefore makes an association with them whether or not they are explicitly mentioned in the Iceland ad itself.



Clearcast’s MD responds to coverage of decision not to clear the Iceland ad

12th November 2018

By Chris Mundy, Managing Director of Clearcast.


Last week Iceland announced that Clearcast had “banned” their Christmas ad which highlights the plight of Orangutans in their habitat as a result of deforestation to produce palm oil. We understand what an important issue the ad raised and there has been a lot of resulting publicity, discussion on social media and a campaign to get the “ban” reversed.


Much of what has been said has been based on a misunderstanding of the issue and we’ve seen a number of conspiracy theories about why the ad was not cleared. The truth is that it is a matter of broadcasting law.


The Iceland ad submitted to Clearcast is a Greenpeace film which has been appearing on the Greenpeace website for a number of months. Greenpeace in its own social media coverage of the story have described the ad as a “Greenpeace film”.


The first important point to make is that Clearcast do not make the rules on advertising, they are made by a body called BCAP. In the case of rules on political advertising, the rules reflect the Communications Act and are embedded in the licences of the broadcasters.


In the case of the Iceland ad, the specific rule Clearcast and the broadcasters have considered is:


“An advertisement contravenes the prohibition on political advertising if it is:


An advertisement which is inserted by or on behalf of a body whose objects are wholly or mainly of a political nature.”


Because the ad is based on material made by Greenpeace and has been promoted on the Greenpeace website for some time, Greenpeace need to demonstrate they are not a political advertiser as defined by the Code before Clearcast can approve the ad. For a television ad to be cleared, the onus is on advertisers (usually via their agencies) to demonstrate their compliance with the Codes (rules). In the case of this ad, Greenpeace have not yet demonstrated to Clearcast or the broadcasters that they are not a political advertiser under the definition of the rules.


It’s important to note that the concerns of Clearcast and the broadcasters do not extend to the content or message of the ad, ie Clearcast do not consider the ad itself to be political. Unfortunately, much reporting of the story has wrongly suggested that this is the issue which has caused understandable confusion. The case made by many of the people that have contacted us  is that they feel it is wrong that the ad is considered political and that it makes important environmental points. However, for the reasons above, that is not the issue here.


Under the Communications Act, regulation of broadcast advertising is the responsibility of Ofcom 1. They delegate many of their responsibilities for advertising regulation to the ASA1, however Ofcom retain direct regulation of political advertising. Ofcom is clear that every broadcaster has a responsibility under its licence to ensure regulatory compliance. In the case of the Iceland ad, broadcasters considered the ad as part of the clearance process and decided that it fell foul of the political advertiser rule meaning to carry it may breach their obligations.


Whilst the ad is not cleared for television, it is free to run on non-Broadcast platforms including VoD.


Finally, it is important to note that Clearcast don’t ban ads as it isn’t a regulator; that is the job of the ASA and, in the case of political ads, Ofcom 1. We work with advertisers to get ads on air and make sure they satisfy the rules. This protects consumers, advertisers and broadcasters.



13.11.18 12:33

We’ve had some queries about why there is a problem at all with the Greenpeace link as the Iceland ad does not include Greenpeace branding. The problem is that, having been running on their social media channels, and even more so following recent publicity,  the content is closely associated with Greenpeace and therefore makes an association with them whether or not they are explicitly mentioned in the Iceland ad itself.


To reiterate, Clearcast does not have the evidence currently to establish whether Greenpeace are a political advertiser under the rules or not.  However, we do need to establish they are not a political advertiser before we clear the ad.


13.11.18 14:48

1 There is a lot of context in this blog about the relative responsibilities of Clearcast, Ofcom and the ASA. I should make it clear that both Ofcom and the ASA do not get involved in decisions on TV advertising until after broadcast. Broadcasters have a legal requirement to ensure the ads they carry meet the BCAP code prior to broadcast and work with Clearcast to ensure that this is the case. Neither Ofcom nor the ASA were involved in the decision not to clear the ad for broadcast.


13.11.18 18:50

Our response to the Iceland petition is here.

Iceland advert

09th November 2018


Clearcast is the body responsible for clearing ads on behalf of the four major UK commercial broadcasters.

We assess all ads against the rules of the UK Code of Broadcast Advertising; Clearcast is not a regulator and we do not ban ads.  The Iceland ad submitted to us is a Greenpeace film which has been appearing on the Greenpeace website for a number of months.

The specific rule Clearcast and the broadcasters have considered is:

An advertisement contravenes the prohibition on political advertising if it is:

An advertisement which is inserted by or on behalf of a body whose objects are wholly or mainly of a political nature.

Clearcast’s concerns do not extend to the content or message of the ad.

Training 2019: Pre-book now open

06th November 2018

We’re now sold-out across all 2018 Agency Training Courses!


We will officially be launching our 2019 dates in the new year.  Our first course of the year is already sold out, however, from today we’re taking reserve bookings for the next Agency sessions on Wednesday 27th February & Wednesday 27th March in London.


Also, this year’s ‘on-the-road’ session will see us travelling to Belfast. So if you’re based in Belfast or surrounding areas, make sure to block out your diary for Thursday 7th March and reserve your place today.


For those of you that don’t know, our interactive Agency Certificate is designed for advertising agencies of all types. The course provides an insight into all aspects of the TV ad clearance process and is designed to get your ads to air and keep them there.


To guarantee your 2019 place, pre-book now by emailing us (with date/location preference) –


See you next year!