It was the Christmas ad everyone was talking about. In 2018, it wasn’t the usual John Lewis TV commercial event that had caught everyone’s attention. It was a charming animated video with a hard-hitting message that won the hearts and minds of the British public. Iceland had teamed up with Greenpeace to enlighten the world about their recent pledge to remove palm oil from their shelves. This tear-jerking ad won Christmas and was watched by millions across the world. It was also “banned” from TV.
The film starred a little girl and a mischievous orangutan who is living in her bedroom since his home has been destroyed. It shed light on the issue of palm oil use, the deforestation in Southeast Asia and the terrible loss of life for orangutans. The reasons why it was such a popular marketing campaign are obvious but why did Clearcast decide it wasn’t fit for TV?
The answer is complicated. For a start, Clearcast didn’t actually ban it (in the strictest sense of the word) as they’re not a regulator but only blocked it in their role as a private clearing company. They work on behalf of the main TV broadcasters to clear content against the official UK code of Broadcast Advertising. The “ad” itself had been uploaded to the Greenpeace website for a number months before being linked with Iceland. Seen as content that had already been used by a political body, it fell foul of the official code and had to be blocked.
The shrewd positioning used by Iceland of it being a “banned” ad meant it got the exposure usually only enjoyed by the biggest TV campaigns. It shows you just how fraught with complications it can be to get your commercial up on TV. Understanding the ins and outs of the rules and regulations will mean you won’t have any unwelcome surprises when your ad is due to be aired.
Why do we need Clearcast? They are the gatekeepers between the advertisers and their audience. They check ads to make sure they’re not misleading, harmful or offensive. And they’ll make sure your ad is legally above board before it airs on TV. Whenever you want to make a big claim about your product being the “world’s best” or “number 1”, then you’ll need to make it sure it stands up. They’ll stress test every one of your claims, ideas and creative against the UK Codes of Advertising (the BCAP and CAP Codes). If you want to put an ad on TV, you’ll need to go through them. Simple as that.
Making sure your ad is on the right side of the rules can be complicated. It’s up to the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) whether or not you’re commercial is legit or not. They are responsible for making the rules and regulations that Clearcast check to pre-clear your ad. Without their screening service, it would be up to the agencies to clear their ads separately with each and every broadcaster. Essentially they are the middleman that will mean you spend less time in the details and more time making sure your creative is on point.
While clearance for TV ads is their bread and butter, Clearcast also gives advice and clearance for BVoD (Broadcaster Video on Demand) ads that air on catch up services and they run their own training programmes. They help fund CARIA (the fun name for Campaign Approvals Rotation Instructions Attribution), an online system for media bookings and will also keep an eye on all the copy and supers used for your ads. It’s a one stop shop for clearance that was created to streamline the entire process for advertisers, broadcasters and their audience.
Making sure your ad is cleared for broadcast is a potential minefield. The ASA rules are constantly evolving, making it an ongoing battle for advertisers to stay inside the boundaries even with the help of Clearcast. Only last summer there were two pre-cleared ads that got pulled off air because of the new gender stereotyping regulations. At a glance, these commercials from Volkswagen and Philadelphia are nothing controversial but their depictions of male and female roles were deemed “outdated” and “stereotypical”.
It’s clear proof that you need to have clued up people taking care of your ad creative from the get go. We pride ourselves on our up to date understanding of the Clearcast process and of the evolving landscape of advertising. The Clearcast submission process is one that we’ve been through many times. It all begins by sending in a signed off script for them to look over and approve. This is a crucial stage of the process. It needs everything in there, from every last word of dialogue to the text on screen that’ll pop up as the ad plays. We always add key frames from the video and detailed descriptions of everything to give the script as much info as possible.
There are three key elements that are integral to getting the results you need: transparency, timing and substantiation. There are countless horror stories about ads that have been blocked because of a mistake in the final ad or if there’s no time left for them to clear it. We are sticklers for detail and always leave ample time to get clearance as well as backing up all our claims with all the proper documents and evidence.
By the time we send over the final polished version (with all the technical details included), there’ll be nothing left to chance. They’ll have seen the full script, any earlier versions (rough cuts) of the ad and this will be just a matter of signing it all off.
Any advert for your brand is an extension of who you are. If you want to be seen as a trusted and honest company then your commercial should represent these qualities. When it comes to creative that makes heads turn or claims that will convert, then we’re always pushing the boundaries. To make sure your commercial will get people talking, you need to make sure it gets seen by as many people as possible. The best place for this to happen is on TV, where the numbers are still the strongest out of every platform, digital or otherwise. We are experts in TV advertising and the clearance process. If you need an ad that has maximum impact, then we’re ready to take on your next big idea.