What the HFSS ban means for your ads right now

27th August 2020

On 27 July, the government announced its latest Obesity Strategy.

From TV’s perspective, the most important element of this strategy is that, despite indications to the contrary in advance of the announcement, the government said it intends to introduce a ban on high fat, sugar and salt foods (HFSS) being aired before 9 pm.

Although the ban is intended to be introduced by the end of 2022, the announcement, understandably, drew some immediate questions about what it meant for the immediate future advertising of HFSS foods. The answer to these questions is that nothing has changed. We will continue to assess all food advertising in line with current rules and guidelines.  

To demonstrate that a food or drink does not fall into the HFSS category, we require advertisers to supply a Nutritional Profile Certificate that shows that. This certificate is available on our website here.

To qualify as non-HFSS, a food’s calculated score, based on 100grams, needs to be 4 or less and for drinks, it needs to be 1 point or less. Foods or drinks that are classified as non-HFSS can be advertised in and around any programmes at any time.

Any food or drink ads for which certificates are not supplied are automatically classed as HFSS and restricted in line with the BCAP rules that state that foods classified as HFSS should not be transmitted in or around programmes commissioned for, directed at, or likely to appeal particularly to those under 16. This often includes advertising for supermarkets that includes a range of food and drinks, even if some of the products featured may not be HFSS. It may also include brand ads for food or drinks companies that are synonymous with HFSS food such as burger, pizza or chicken restaurants or takeaways, even if specific food items are not featured.

The scheduling rules for HFSS foods are some of the strictest in the BCAP Code; they have been in place for over 13 years. In that time, the ASA has not needed to rule against any ads for failing to comply.

Here at Clearcast, we will continue, on behalf of broadcasters, to keep a close eye on the developments in this area while assessing ads against existing rules. You can talk to your Copy Executive if you’re unsure about anything.

Job Vacancies

19th August 2020

Clearcast is a media company owned by ITV, Sky, Channel 4 and Turner and is best known for clearing ads for TV and broadcaster VoD services. Our mission is to get ads to air and keep them there, through services and systems ranging from training to media booking to advertising clearance and beyond.

There are currently no vacancies, but please keep an eye on our Twitter, LinkedIn and ‘What’s Going On?‘ page where we will post any open job opportunities.

face mask, social distancing, adverts

Social distancing in ads ‘at this time’

17th August 2020

By Cass Coakley, Senior Communications Executive

We know getting your ads right during these unique times can be a challenge. The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has published some guidance about Covid-19 related advertising back in March, but there isn’t any official guidance on social distancing for advertising yet.

To guide the industry through these changes and other recent developments, our training team is running three  ‘Vital Update’ sessions. The online sessions will focus on social distancing in ads, gender stereotyping, legal supers and HFSS food ads. Email the training team with any questions or to book a place here – spaces are limited.

Our position is, of course, ever-changing to echo government advice concerning social distancing and face coverings etc. We’re careful about issuing definitive advice because of this. Every ad is different and judged in its own right – we hope this blog gives some insight and direction when writing and filming your ads at the moment.

We frequently get queries around social distancing in ads and as always, but especially now, context is key. If an ad was filmed before the government rules came into play then things are likely to be fine. However, flaunting a lack of social distancing and not wearing face masks where appropriate in newly filmed ads may not be acceptable.

We think it’s unrealistic to insist on ads showing people wearing masks and social distancing in all circumstances. However, as mentioned above, if your ad is related to or mentions the current situation e.g “if you are shopping in these times” we would advise government guidelines are followed.

If your ad shows a group of people, for example, at a dinner table or socialising in another way, there is no reason for us to assume they aren’t from the accepted social bubbles with no requirement for social distancing. However, if your ad shows a large group of people, where it may be unlikely that they are from the same household socialising, this might not be ok. It goes without saying that these recently filmed ads should be abiding by the social distancing rules when filming too.

If an ad shows a situation that breaks the government guidelines, for example, a packed football stadium that was clearly filmed pre-pandemic, we wouldn’t usually require substantiation to prove this. However, if something in the ad contradicts this and suggests it’s ‘at this time’ or about Covid-19 safety then this wouldn’t be ok.

If ads promote safety and protection during the pandemic, we expect advertisers to follow government guidelines by showing social distancing, for example, anyone featured wearing a face covering. We will likely reject any ads that seem to show wilful breaking of the guidelines – talk to your Copy Executive if you’re unsure of what this looks like.

We expect the ASA to take a dim view of ads condoning, encouraging or demonstrating people breaking the government guidelines. The ASA has, unsurprisingly, taken a particularly strong line with any unproven claims about Covid-19 protection, safety and treatment so if this is the route you’re going down make sure that your substantiation is robust.

Advertisers using health claims need to take particular care when claiming the benefits of curing ‘symptoms’ even if it isn’t Covid-19 related. For example, if an ad for a vitamin supplement suggests that it will heighten someone’s defences – this may be seen to mislead people about their immunity to the virus unless the ailment is made obvious.

It’s also important not to get too caught up on the rules around social distancing and overlook the foundations of the advertising Code. During the pandemic, advertisers have found new and novel ways of producing eye-catching advertising, much of which has been user-generated. It’s as important now as any other time to ensure all provisions of the Code’s rules are observed – whether that’s around misleadingness, safety or offence.

But as ever, we need to assess ads individually and always remember, context is key – especially now.

How we can help:


For real-life ad examples, crucial watch-outs and more dos & don’ts around advertising at this time make sure to book a place on our sixty minutes ‘Vital Update’ Training sessions.

Copy Development

Like everything else related to Covid-19, advertising will fluctuate and change as time goes on. Our Copy Development service is particularly accommodating at this time. Seb (our Copy Development Manager) can help shape your concepts if you’re struggling to toe the line and keep your ad on the right side of the Code rules or the within the spirit of the government guidelines as they evolve.

Summer Newsletter 2020

04th August 2020

Whether you’re new to Clearcast and want to get to know us and our work a little better, or have worked with us for years and want to stay ahead of the game, there’ll be something in here for you. Download the newsletter here.

Articles include:

Uplifting creativity of lockdown

Thinkbox’s CEO, Lindsey Clay, explores how creativity flourished in the lockdown period and the vital lessons advertisers can take into the future. 

Clearcast Out-Of-Hours – New service!

Exactly what it says on the tin! We’re thrilled to introduce the Clearcast Out-Of-Hours service which means agencies and advertisers can access our Clearance and Development services (prearranged) any time of the day, any day of the week.

Take note! Recent BCAP Code changes

There have been some significant changes to the BCAP Code in the past year so we asked our Head of Copy Clearance, Niamh, to give us a rundown.

Chr***mas copy advice

Apologies, we know this feels early but we received our first festive script back in February, so we’re fully in the zone. Matt Bailey, our Copy Group Manager, counts down the top 6 Christmas ad watch-outs. 

Training, redefined

The training programme adapted rapidly when the lockdown began and now finds itself redefined. Lucy, our Admin and Communications Executive, talks through transitioning to webinars, a new ‘Vital updates’ course and the benefits for attendees booking onto our online sessions.

TV Admin at Clearcast

All you need to know about getting your ad approved internationally. Danny covers the who, what and why of his TV Admin service.

Hellos, goodbyes, babies, engagements & promotions

We’ve been busy bees! Have a nose and see who’s had a baby, got engaged, been promoted, or sadly, said goodbye. 

And much more!