Close-Up: Live Issue - Does the BACC need to be improved?

Will rebranding as Clearcast make the BACC better at its clearance role, Matthew Warren asks.

The BACC will come back to work in the New Year with a new name and a new man in charge. It will be rebranded as Clearcast and headed up by a new managing director, Chris Mundy.

Mundy has been with the BBC for the past eight years and is currently its head of audiences. He explains why the change is taking place: "Previously, the BACC was part of ITV and the other broadcasters then bought into its services. Clearcast will be jointly owned by the major commercial broadcasters so they're all shareholders."

Mundy himself is a television man to the core. Before joining the BBC, he had stints running the research departments at Sky, Eurosport and Carlton Television. He has also been on the board of Barb since 1999.

He'll take on his new role before March next year, and he is keen to get out and talk to people in the advertising industry about how the BACC currently operates. And he won't be short of strong opinions when he does.

Most in the industry appreciate the BACC has a tough job, but some feel it could be performing better. One of the key issues is speed. As Trevor Beattie, a partner at Beattie McGuinness Bungay, puts it: "They are far too slow to respond in a digital world."

Kristoffer Hammer, the BACC's editorial standards manager, insists the operation has improved in this area: "Out of 2,500 scripts per year, more than half are commented on within two days, and three-quarters within four days."

Hammer feels the BACC has also made big efforts over the past two years to improve transparency about how it works. Mundy agrees, but thinks there is always scope to do more: "One of the things I will want to do is look at all the processes and see if there are areas for improvement."

Zoe Bell, Mother's head of TV, articulates a concern of many in the industry when she says its executives are not always sufficiently trained and experienced. "This leads to inconsistencies and the executive leaning to the lowest common denominator, often meaning rejection of scripts," she says.

Mundy says it is too early for him to take a view on this, but stresses there is "a phenomenal amount of experience at the BACC".

However, some in the industry are starting to feel that the whole system of clearance and regulation is anachronistic. And the rise in influence of the Advertising Standards Authority has created some awkward conflicts. For example, the Trident chewing-gum case earlier in the year attracted censure from the ASA, despite being cleared by the BACC.

Mundy says there has been a lot of work over the past couple of years to bring the two bodies closer together. He points to figures from the BACC that suggest the number of cases where the two bodies disagreed, 32 in 2006, will be much lower this year.

Above all, Mundy sees the role of Clearcast as a positive one. He draws a comparison with another innovation in the TV market: "Thinkbox is all about why you should buy TV advertising. Clearcast has been described as 'DoBox' - making the process of getting commercials to air as swift, straightforward and painless as possible. Our mission should be making it easy for the industry to get great advertising to air."

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CREATIVE - Malcolm Poynton, executive creative director, Ogilvy Advertising

"In a fast-moving world, the BACC can sometimes act as a handbrake. As soon as there is a difference in opinion, it needs to have internal discussions and that's where the delays start. Clients and agencies don't want to wait weeks for a decision.

"The whole process can sometimes be a pain, but there are some moral rules it protects and it does play an important role doing that. I'm sure we'd only get ourselves in the news for the wrong reasons without such a body.

"There's an issue as things migrate away from television on to the internet, where there is no pre-clearance."

AGENCY HEAD OF TV - Zoe Bell, head of television, Mother

"We currently have a successful relationship with our copy executive, but should we lose him, I suspect we will suffer the same frustrations as others.

"The main issue with the BACC is a lack of good people and inadequate training of new staff. The senior staff are also causing a bottleneck for the ones who are ambitious, meaning there is no career path for them to follow.

"In short, it needs to lose the dead wood, promote the good ones, implement a fully comprehensive training programme and encourage collaboration with their agencies."

CLIENT - Dominic Stinton, marketing director, TalkTalk

"Clearcast needs to concentrate its efforts on ensuring that TV advertising is truthful and honest. It needs to be concerned less with whether a script is likely to cause offence and more concerned with overclaim and bluster.

"When I was an account handler working in advertising, waiting for a BACC ruling sometimes felt like Judgment Day. One would punch the air if a seemingly 'edgy' script got through.

"These days, as a client, I feel more relaxed about BACC judgments. Television is a small part of a much bigger campaign, and a big idea will sustain your marketing even if your TV ad ends up being seemingly blunted for whatever reason."

SUIT - Chris Willingham, partner and client services director, Fallon

"When the BACC is good, it's quite flexible and constructive. When it's bad, it's slow, rigid and bureaucratic.

"Nowadays, there is more pressure on agencies to be nimble and to create advantage for their clients by pushing creative boundaries - and the BACC isn't always tuned into this.

"It depends on who you to talk to at the BACC. There are some people who are better than others.

"We had an Asda issue, where milk advertising was censored from children's programming because of the fat content. The positive benefits of milk were not taken into account. Perhaps the BACC needs more power to force change in instances such as this."