How clearance works FAQ

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Ad clearance FAQ

Get answers to key questions about ad clearance

Ad clearance basics

  • What is CopyCentral?
  • CopyCentral is our online system that allows you to submit scripts and ads for clearance. It consolidates all materials and communications in one place.

  • Does Clearcast respect its clients' confidentiality?
  • Yes, of course. Any confidential information you send us will be held in confidence. The only exception to this is if we are required to disclose it by law or regulation, or by governmental or competent regulatory authority and only after an ad has been broadcast. Your great ads are safe with us!

Getting in touch with us

  • How do we find out who our contact is at Clearcast?
  • Head on over to our contact us page and enter your agency or company name into the Find your copy clearance executive box. alternatively, just call us on 020 7339 4700 and we'll connect you to the right person.
  • Who should we contact if we have a script query?
  • You'll have been allocated a copy group executive who can help. To find out who they are, enter your agency or company name into the Find your copy clearance executive box on our contact us page.

Alternatively, call us on 020 7339 4700 and we'll connect you.

Advertising jargon

  • What's the difference between a rough cut and clocked commercial?
  • A rough cut ad is unfinished. A clocked ad is ready for broadcast, and begins with a countdown timer.

Getting an ad cleared

  • How much does it cost to clear an ad?
  • Ad clearances are free, as long as:
    • They will be aired on one of the channels for which we clear.
    • They are no longer than five minutes long. Teleshopping ads longer than five minutes are charged at standard rates. We charge for other adverts on a case-by-case basis.

Bespoke Clearances

Increasing numbers of ads take the traditional 30 second spot to new levels of creativity and some of these require live, weekend of other off-site clearances. We're keen to work with you to get these ads to air and the rates depend on the project.

  • How long does it take to clear an ad?
  • It depends how complex the ad is, but we always aim to meet our service levels.
  • Which broadcasters does Clearcast clear ads for?
  • Clearcast is owned and funded by the major UK broadcasters, which means we clear any ads to be aired by those broadcasters. See the channels for which we clear ads.
  • Does Clearcast clear ads for other broadcasters?
  • We are happy to offer our services, at a cost, to broadcasters wishing to use them. Please contact us to discuss.
  • Does Clearcast clear ads for broadcast outside the UK?
  • We do clear ads that are aired overseas but only when they are broadcast from the UK. For example, Sky and E4 broadcast from the UK into the Republic of Ireland.

If your ad will be broadcast in another European country then you can find the appropriate clearance body here.

  • Does Clearcast clear video on demand (VoD) ads?
  • Yes. We have offered VoD clearance for our shareholding broadcasters who have had VoD services since 2009.
  • Does Clearcast clear pitch scripts?
  • No, but we do have a premium service that will offer feedback on pitches. Take a look here.
  • Does Clearcast clear cinema ads?
  • No. You need to speak to the Cinema Advertising Association instead.
  • Does Clearcast clear radio ads?
  • No. Contact the Radiocentre instead.
  • We're in a rush to get our ad to air, so can we get a late clearance?
  • Learn more about late clearance
  • Can we get provisional clearance for our ad?
  • Yes, sometimes. Provisional clearance allows your ad to be transmitted before it has been through our full approval process.

Provisional approval is usually only granted when we believe full clearance of the commercial will be fairly straightforward.

Learn more about our clearance process

  • How do we upload our ad?
  • Ads being submitted for clearance must be uploaded into CopyCentral, our ad clearance system.

Uploading ads is straightforward, but you can download our guide (pdf).

  • Why do we have to declare black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) actors when we upload an ad?
  • When you submit an ad for approval, you will be asked to declare if the ad features actors from black, Asian or minority ethnic backgrounds.

It's important to fill in this information, because it helps the advertising industry to track the proportion of BAME actors in ads

  • How do I sign up for CopyCentral?
  • If your company hasn't used Clearcast before just download and return our registration form. If your company has already signed up to CopyCentral then they will have a super-user who is responsible for setting up new users.
  • How do we check the progress of our ad or script in clearance?
  • Our online submission portal CopyCentral is the best place to start. The script submission will show a status:
    • With Clearcast means the submission is currently in your contact's inbox, awaiting their attention.
    • Pending means your contact has considered the script and has placed comments on CopyCentral that require your attention.

  • Our script has changed. Can we update it in CopyCentral?
  • Yes — but if your script is showing as 'With Clearcast' please speak to your Clearcast contact first.

To update a script:

  1. Sign in to CopyCentral
  2. Open the submission
  3. Select the Feedback section (on the left hand side)
  4. Select Upload File (at the bottom, right hand corner)
  5. Select Script
  6. Choose and upload your script

  • Our ad clearance requires a consultant's input. How long will it take?
  • When input from a specialist consultant is required, we do our best to work with them as quickly as possible. Typically, it takes a week or so.

However, this does depend on the how complex the issue is and how complete your supporting evidence is.

  • Should we send sponsorship idents to Clearcast for clearance?
  • No. We do not provide clearance for sponsorship idents. These should be cleared by the broadcaster of the channel on which they will appear.
  • What should we do if we disagree with Clearcast's opinion of an ad, or are unhappy for some reason?
  • We have an escalation process to deal with ads that need further attention and to address other issues. See how our escalation process works.

    Does Clearcast approval have an expiry date?
    At the moment, no.

    Once an ad has been approved by Clearcast, that approval is left on it. This is because the sheer volume of ads that we deal with prohibits keeping track of individual ads’ airdates. The only exception is in the unlikely event of an upheld ruling by the ASA, at which point we would need to rescind approval.

    Should the ad contain an offer or something similarly time-sensitive, during the clearance process we will expect to receive confirmation of the final media dates of the ad; these must be adhered to.

    In categories where there are regulation changes between the initial airing of an ad and a subsequent burst of air time, or where a time-sensitive offer is being repeated, advertisers must satisfy themselves whether they do or don’t need to get the ad cleared again. In all cases where a revised version of a previously cleared ad is submitted for Clearcast approval, the previous submission should be referenced.

    Can I submit an HD version of an ad I've already had approved?
    Sky and ITV both accept true HD ads, but their policies differ.

    For Sky:
    1. The same clock number should be used irrespective of whether the commercial format is SD or HD.
    2. Clearcast will not normally clear the same creative under different clock numbers as this will slow down our workflow and delay clearance for everyone.Where we are asked to clear the same creative under different clock numbers, for example where an HD version has been clocked separately in error, we will apply a charge for clearance.
    3. There is no need to resubmit previously cleared commercials with new clock numbers if you remaster them in HD. The clock number of the previously cleared commercial should be used.

    For ITV:
    1. Ads previously cleared in standard definition should be re clocked if an HD version is supplied.
    2. As clearing already-approved ads will be detrimental to our workflow we will apply a charge for these clearances.

General advertising rules

  • I've read a lot about 'the Code'. What is it?
  • It's the UK Code of Broadcast Advertising, and it outlines the rules with which TV ads have to comply. The Broadcast - Committee of Advertising Practice (CAP) writes and enforces the code. there is also a non-broadcast code, which VOD ads are assessed against.

Read the Code online

  • What is a legal super, and what are the rules about them?
  • A legal super is text that appears on your ad to qualify a claim. For instance, it might say something like: 'Of 100 people surveyed, 72% said they preferred our shampoo'.

There are strict rules about legal supers, covering their size and the time for which they should be displayed. You can read the BCAP rules on legal supers.

  • Where can we find out the requirements for our legal supers?
  • There's lots of information on our website, plus a handy calculator to help you work out how long your legal super must be displayed for.
  • What is a timing restriction and why has our ad been given one?
  • Timing restrictions help make sure an advert is only shown at a time that is appropriate to its content.

For instance, some ads may only be shown outside programmes that are mainly watched by children. Others may only be shown after the adult watershed.

Some ads are given a 'post 1930' restriction. This is often applied to ads that contain moderate references to sex, violence or harmful behaviour.

Learn more about timing restrictions

  • When is the adult watershed in the UK?
  • The watershed in the UK is at 2100, for all channels except premium subscription film services.

For premium subscription film services that don't have mandatory restricted access (like a PIN protection system), the watershed is 2000.

There's no watershed on premium subscription film services that are PIN protected.

  • Can our ads use swearing or expletives?
  • Probably not. Bad language can offend large numbers of people, particularly where it is unexpected. It is unlikely to be acceptable in advertising.
  • Why do we have to report details about the music in our ads?
  • It's important you include details of any music used in your ads. We pass this on to PRS for music who use it to distribute royalties to music composers and publishers.

  • Our ad has been restricted to 'ex-kids'. What does this mean?
  • 'Ex-kids' or 'PK' means that the ad will not be broadcast before, after or during children's programmes. These include both programmes aimed specifically at children, and those with a high proportion of child viewers.

This is not a timing restriction. It just applies to the type of programme being broadcast.

For more advice about the ex-kids restriction, get in touch with your Clearcast contact.

  • We are advertising a limited offer. Does that affect what our ad can say?
  • Yes. After seeing the ad, viewers must have enough time to decide whether or not to take up the offer.

If the offer ends relatively soon after the last airing of the ad, you must show the when it ends in the ad. What's reasonable depends on what product or service you are advertising. Your Clearcast contact can advise further.

  • Can we create an ad that's sponsored by a company?
  • Any advertising message sponsored by a company is usually recognised as a sponsorship ident and transmitted at the start and end of ad breaks.

We do not clear this kind of advertising. These should be cleared by the broadcaster of the channel on which they will appear.

  • We want to use or refer to a celebrity in an ad. What should we watch for?
  • Make sure you have read section 6 of the BCAP Code, which covers the privacy of individuals.

The Code says individuals should be protected from 'unwarranted infringements of privacy'. In general, living persons should not be featured, caricatured or referred to without their permission.

If the celebrity is dead, it is usually ok for an ad to refer to them in a non-defamatory way. However, if they have died within the last year, we would ask that permission is sought from their family or estate.

Be aware that if a celebrity is providing a testimonial, they must fill in a testimonial form (Word doc).

They must not make definitive statements (e.g. “This is the world's best shampoo”) unless it clearly presented as their opinion.

Your Clearcast contact can help if you have questions about celebrities.

  • We're producing a bingo, gaming, lottery or betting ad. What should we look for?
  • Gambling is a large, tricky area of advertising. The best place to start is section 17 of the BCAP Code. Lotteries are covered by section 18. We can provide advice on all aspects of gambling ads, including gambling limits, bonuses, free bets and so on. Because the rules are complex, it's best to submit a script first, so we can work with you to identify any issues early.

We assign a 'GG' code to gambling ads. This tells broadcasters that the ad should not be transmitted during or adjacent to religious programmes. children's programmes, or other programmes directed at or that appeal to people under 18

  • Can our ad make a superiority claim?
  • Yes, but you have to be careful. Make sure you can substantiate the claim with evidence that will withstand significant scrutiny. This evidence must include data covering the entire relevant marketplace. Section 3 of the BCAP Code contains more information about comparisons.
  • Can we show nudity in our ads?
  • Full frontal nudity is not acceptable and genitals or female breasts shown in an ad are likely to cause offence.

Pixellation may be an option, but please discuss this with your Clearcast contact, as the context of what's shown is very important.

Bare bottoms are acceptable but will probably be subject to a mild scheduling restriction. The same applies to revealing clothing or scantily dressed characters.

It's important that any nudity is relevant to the advertised product or service. Be particularly cautious if the nude subject is a baby or child.

Advertising rules for specific sectors

  • What are the rules for advertising alcohol?
  • There are a number of rules that apply to ads for alcoholic drinks. You can read these in section 19 of the Code.
  • What are the rules for advertising products high in fat, sugar or salt?
  • New rules were introduced in 2007 that cover products meeting the Food Standards Agency's definition of being high in fat, sugar or salt (HFSS).

Section 19 of the Code contains more information.

  • What are the rules for disclaimers on vehicles?
  • In addition to following the same rules as any other sector, vehicle ads tend to require additional legal supers:
    • If a 'from' price is shown but the vehicle in the ad is not available at this price, you must include a disclaimer stating the name and price of the model shown.
    • If you make a claim about fuel consumption or emissions, you must include a disclaimer stating under what circumstances this figure was achieved.
    • If the vehicle is not available from all dealers — or has other availability restrictions, you must say so. Similarly, any restrictions on offers like free servicing, warranties and so on must be included.
    • If the price stated in an ad is related to a scrappage discount — or any other kind of special deal, you must state this. You must also include any other important conditions relating to the advertised deal.

Please speak to your Clearcast contact if you have any questions about vehicle advertising.

Teleshopping advertising rules

  • What is a teleshopping ad?
  • Teleshopping is a form of advertising where offers are broadcast directly to the public, with a view to supplying goods or services in return for payment.

Other names for teleshopping include advertorials, infomercials and home shopping.

  • What rules apply to teleshopping ads?
  • Teleshopping adverts are covered by the same rules as all other ads. For an overview of the rules, see the BCAP Code.
  • How do we submit a teleshopping ad to Clearcast?
  • Please use our online submissions portal CopyCentral, as with any other ad.
    Learn more about teleshopping clearance