Introduction to TV advertising – Part One: Clearance

Posted on August 3rd, 2016 by · Filed under Video Production articles


At YourFilm, we produce TV adverts for clients big and small, for local, regional and national campaigns. Whatever the client, whatever the product or service we’re helping to sell, the process is essentially the same, in part due to the fairly strict rules and regulations associated with TV advertising.

We often work with clients who are new to TV, and that coupled with the relative freedom which applies to online videos and even radio adverts means that we are often helping our clients understand the process and the regulations behind it – and how they differ to what they may be used to – whilst we work on the creative production of the advert.

So, we felt it might be helpful to publish a couple of blog posts which look at the processes and timescales involved, as well as the different types of creative styles we work in, as something of an ‘Introduction to TV advertising.’

This first post focuses on the clearance process.

A quick disclaimer first: certain types of advertiser are subject to industry-specific rules and regulations, for example dating services, gambling and political parties, and we’ll of course always offer tailored advice for your specific requirements. Overall though, the following can be applied to all adverts.

The Committees of Advertising Practice (CAP) publish their code, which exists to protect both viewers (from false or misleading claims) and advertisers (from complaints). Clearcast are the body who enforce the code up-front, which essentially means they have to approve both the script and the final advert, for it be allowed to air on UK commercial TV channels. If an advert hasn’t been cleared by Clearcast, then none of the major broadcasters will accept it. clearcast

The Advertising Standards Authority handle complaints raised against adverts which have aired, but if the Clearcast process has been handled correctly – by us as well as them! – then this should provide a solid basis to argue against any complaint which might be raised. Complaints are relatively rare, and complaints which are upheld even more infrequent, in our experience. We handle the clearance process for our clients – all you have to do is help supply us with substantiation information which supports any claims made in the advert. So for example, if you want to say your product is “Available now, from £99.99 + P&P” or “Product X is the only product that can do Y,” you will need to work with us to prove these points to Clearcast’s satisfaction. Our process for working with a client to create a television advert is outlined as follows:

–Client briefs YourFilm on their requirement, including any budget guidance.

–YourFilm generates a script, mood-board, storyboard or proof of concept video (or maybe all three) to demonstrate our creative concept. We also provide advice at this stage on how we think Clearcast will respond to the idea, in an effort to avoid wasting time with visuals or claims which we feel will be rejected.

–Once we have agreed the creative direction for the advert, we submit our script and substantiating information to Clearcast.

–Typically it takes 2-3 weeks for us to work with Clearcast to have them approve our plans for the advert.

–Once we have created the advert, we then submit the edit to Clearcast for their approval.

Naturally, they expect that what we submit is in line with what we told them we were going to make. Of course, sometimes during the production of a TV advert, we make some tweaks to the creative – new visuals, alternate voiceover, perhaps even a new claim – so if we have made any such changes, we need to substantiate them at this point. It’s rare that any such change will be major, though, and we always advise our clients at each stage of the process what Clearcast will and won’t accept. We’ve been doing this for years, so have a pretty good idea of what will and won’t fly with them!

–Once the final advert is cleared, this means that it complies with the BCAP code, and isn’t expected to be open to criticism or complaint. Clearance of a final advert typically takes 2-3 working days.

Each cleared advert has its own unique ‘clock number,’ which is in a standardised format and which ensures that all broadcasters can easily process and schedule the advert.

Once we’re cleared for broadcast and have a clock number, we can then have the advert mastered for submission to broadcasters. This process ensures that the technical aspects of the video are within legal limits for UK broadcast – colours, luminance levels, sound levels, that sort of thing. The broadcasters generally only accept final submissions via third-party services such as IMD or AdStream, which helps keep all advertisers working within the same framework.

The typical timescale from us receiving a brief to having the final advert cleared and submitted to the broadcaster is 12 weeks. Of course, this can scale up or down, depending on a number of factors, but 3 months is a reasonable benchmark.

In part two of this series, we’ll look at the various creative styles which can be effectively used in the production of TV adverts. In the meantime though, by all means feel free to contact us with any questions you may have regarding the process of producing a TV advert.