When an advert shows up on TV, it’s often the culmination of months of work. Few people know the effort or regulation that lies behind each epic. The UK’s TV advertising market is highly regulated and designed to avoid false statements, claims or misleading adverts.

What’s in an advert?

On this page, we’ll look into the anatomy of a TV advert. We explore the specific rules that govern what’s allowed on-air and some of the technical hurdles encountered by advertisers looking to show their wears on television.

What types of advert TV companies can show

TV ads come in all shapes and sizes, in the UK TV ads usually fit into specific lengths, the “cutdown” 10 seconds, the traditional 30 seconds or the blockbuster 60-second extravaganza.

When looking at the style of advert TV broadcaster show, there’s also a mix. Ads can either be live-action, featuring actors a location and props. Or animation where the creative imagination of the advert company is the only limiting factor.

The role of the ad

Ads can also fall into different categories depending on their function in the advertisers marketing mix. A launch ad can be used to introduce a new company, brand or product. Using TV advertising as a launchpad is seen as a great way to get noticed by as many people as possible.

Direct response advertising always includes a call-to-action, the advertiser hopes for a response from the viewer. This response can be either a website visit or a call to a toll-free number. Brand advertising differs from DRTV in that the advertiser is looking to reinforce their brand message. Or possibly change the perception of their brand in the mind of the viewer.

What was the first ever TV advert?

The first TV advert on British screens was for Gibbs SR Toothpaste, it went on air in September 1955. At 70 seconds in length the advert made television history and change TV watching for ever. The advert was created by Brian Palmer a copywriter at Young & Rubicam.

Famous TV commercials

Some TV ads have changed minds or industries, here are a few ads that shook up the existing markets.

The Levis 501 ad launched an entire category and make advertising the go to media for huge launch campaigns.

This great ad from SONY convinced everyone about the need to upgrade to HD televisons.

The John Lewis Christmas ad started an arms race between retailers, the wait for new Chrsitmas ads has become an annual event.

A simple ad which launched an entire business. This ad was produed by Toast.

The famous Hovis advert was filmed at Gold Hill, Shaftesbury in Dorset. The advert was directed in 1973 by legendary director Sir Ridley Scott.

Legal requirements, Cleacast

In the UK each ad has to be approved by an industry body named Cleacast before a broadcaster can air it. Commercials aren’t allowed to be, misleading, harmful or offensive. Clearcast will look at initial scripts and give guidance on areas that might cause issues later. This guidance enables an advert company to have an approved script before any filming or animation starts.

Clearcast – claims

If an advertiser claims their product is the best seller, most efficient, cures ills or is just downright peachy. Clearcast will look at these claims and demand substantiation before clearing an advert. Proof can be in the form of industry sales data or scientific research.


If a viewer complains about a TV ad it will be handled by the ASA (The Advertising Standards Authority), the ASA then decide whether to investigate the ad. The ASA will ask Cleacast for information relating to the clearing of the ad and then rule on whether the commercial breaks the UK advertising standards. Ads can be pulled from television if the ASA decides they breach the rules.

Legal Supers

Where Clearcast rules that further information is needed. Legal supers will be used to display this text. The text size, legibility and length of time on the screen is regulated. Further information about legal supers is here. Clearcast Supers info.

Working with Toast

If you’re looking for an advert company with great creative ideas, award winning writers and directors get in touch. If you already have a TV ad and you’re looking to get it on air we work with a number of media buyers who can organise a media plan. Get in touch.

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