‘There’s a strong role for commercial free-to-air TV’: Free TV on the launch of Clear Ads and the future of broadcast

Clear Ads is the final phase of a two-year transformation Free TV has undergone on its advertising classification and information service CAD. Mumbrella’s Hannah Blackiston speaks with CEO Bridget Fair and director of commercial operations Alison Lee to find out why the body underwent the change, how important it is for clients and what the next 12 months looks like for free-to-air.

Free TV has announced the new branding for its Commercials Advice division (CAD). Clear Ads is the final phase of a two-year process to deliver greater customer focus, a faster and simplified service, and a more streamlined service for the advertising and media sectors.

“It was a change that we wanted to make because of the significant changes we’ve made in the business and the way it operates and we wanted to find something that encapsulated that benefit to our clients and also reflected the change in focus,” Free TV Australia CEO Bridget Fair tells Mumbrella.

Fair: The future of television is bright

“CAD is quite an old business and it was set up initially as a bit more of a tick the box kind of exercise. It’s evolved over time, particularly in the last two years, to being something which helps advertising clients and agencies to navigate quite a complex area and to assist them in getting more of their content to air more quickly rather than it being something that was seen as a bit of a necessary evil,” says Fair.

CAD provides classification and information services to advertisers, agencies and production houses in relation to television commercials and infomercials. While the service doesn’t provide legal advice, Free TV does strongly recommend advertisers submit their material to CAD before going to broadcasters.

“Clear Ads is a trusted adviser to the media and advertising industry, providing vital classification and information services to advertisers, agencies and production houses for television commercials and infomercials,” says director of commercial operations Alison Lee.

Lee: Clear Ads is a trusted adviser

“The key improvements over the past two years have included new features for our online application system and faster turnaround times for reviewing and approving commercials and the introduction of our Fast Track services including Red Hot, Rush Hour and Express.”

The Clear Ads name, brand image and website were developed by Cre8ive, an agency specialising in branding, design, media, print, branding and digital.

The two-year CAD overhaul process has involved a complete transformation for the service. At the heart of the overhaul, says Lee, was customer service and delivering a better experience for those who use the system.

Clear Ads now has an expedited service which allows clients to get approval in a much quicker timeframe and training services to help clients understand the complex landscape. What that means is they can get the ads on air quicker and easier, which was the key focus of the feedback Free TV received.

What was previously a two-day turnaround on CAD and one category of priority service has become several levels of service and timeframe offerings, created with the knowledge that such a fast-paced industry needs various options, the industry body says.

“We actually went out and asked out clients what was important to them and what they told us was that they very much valued the expertise that they found within CAD, but what they wanted was an easier way of working with CAD and that included both a better online experience and also more direct contact with the business,” says Lee.

“The thing that’s been great is we’ve already got these expedited fast-track services up and running. Our Red Hot service commenced a couple of years ago, but more recently our Express one-hour service provides a very quick turnaround and that’s been received really well,” says Lee.

In fact, in the two years since the changes began, 30% of the Clear Ads client base has moved onto the expedited service. Clear Ads serves an important commercial function for Free TV, bringing in income through the various fees for providing classification and information services to advertisers, agencies and production houses in relation to television commercials and infomercials.

It’s a busy time for Free TV even outside the Clear Ads change. With the landscape of broadcast media changing so quickly, and the wider Australian media landscape moving at a rapid pace, there’s a lot on the plate for the team.

Fair highlights the upcoming ACCC report on digital platforms as a key focus for Free TV. Also, the future of regulatory frameworks for free-to-air television and the current imbalance between it and other platforms in terms of Australian content. Technology is also a big point of interest, something which is always changing and updating and will have a monumental impact on the way Free TV works in the future.

Fair won’t be drawn into discussion about the future of the industry in terms of consolidation. Recent changes to the media ownership laws and the merger of Nine and Fairfax have created much speculation that the landscape could see another big merger in the near future. Fair says that conversation is one for individual broadcasters to have, and that any comment would be pure speculation.

But Fair is confident that the outlook is good for the medium in general. She says the way broadcasters are adapting and responding to viewer habits is keeping the industry relevant, mentioning the rise of BVOD and the increase in programming that viewers engage with as the ways broadcasters are staying competitive.

“Australians are watching on average of two hours and 24 minutes of television everyday. Commercial television has an unparalleled reach and we’re spending about $1.6bn on Australian content,” she says. “So I think we’re still very front and centre, and the combination of TV and BVOD advertising is also very powerful. We’re feeling very confident that there’s still a very strong role for commercial free-to-air television.”


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