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How to make TV ads accessible

How to make TV ads accessible

Posted on: November 17, 2023

Demand for access services from advertisers and agencies remains fairly low, but there are signs that things are changing. Companies like P&G and Unilever amongst others are making increased commitments to inclusion and accessibility and are creating ads with disabled people in mind. 

Building accessibility into the beginning of the campaign briefing and planning process is the key to making advertising fully accessible for all and limiting potential challenges downstream.

It gives the advertiser and their creative agency the opportunity to think about how the ad can be designed with built in universal accessibility, or what access services they might want to use. 

There are of course additional costs involved in producing the materials needed for access services, but these remain a tiny fraction of overall TV ad production costs, and there are many providers of subtitles, signing and audio description to choose from. 

In many cases, accessibility is only considered in the later stages of the postproduction process, as an afterthought or last-minute addition, and when it’s sometimes not feasible to add in. 

An ad with a lot of on-screen text and no dialogue would not allow for subtitles, for example. Producing effective audio description can be challenging when there’s lots of dialogue and action, and little space in the audio for a voice to describe what’s happening. 

Therefore, accessibility must be considered from the beginning as an integral part of the creative process

Advertisers: tips to make your ads more accessible

  • Tell your creative agency early (at pitch stage even) that you want to make your ad accessible and what features you’d like to use – subtitles, audio description or signing.
  • Ask your creative agency to work in a budget line for these access services before they send you their costs – and ensure additional time is built into the production schedule, particularly at the end.
  • Ask your creative agency to consider working your brand name into the audio of your ad rather than relying on your visual logo, so people with sight loss know whose ad is playing.
  • Protect the provision of access services as you get to the end of the postproduction process; don’t let the time and budget required for subtitling, signing or audio description get swallowed up to free up resource elsewhere.  
  • Read ISBA’s excellent REFRAME: Guidance for Marketers for a more detailed framework and toolkit. 

Creative agencies: tips to make your ads more accessible

  • Ask your client early (ideally before you even pitch) if they’d like you to make their ad accessible and which features they want to consider (subtitles, signing or audio description).
  • Arm yourself with the facts about accessible TV advertising and actively explain the process and the benefits to clients, making the case for more accessible TV advertising. 
  • Ensure you have preferred access service suppliers in place for subtitling, audio description and signing.
  • Don’t assume that the ad your producing doesn’t require access services – seek expert opinion on what additional elements are needed to make the ad fully accessible. 
  • Work in a budget line for subtitling, audio description or signing before you send the client costs.
  • Consider working your client’s brand name into the audio of your ad rather than relying on their logo, so people with sight loss know whose ad is playing.
  • Keep the provision of access services a priority during the production process; ensure you don’t recommend cutting corners on these services to divert time or budget elsewhere. 

Subtitling through Clearcast 

Clearcast is leading the way in making TV advertising more accessible, and you now have the choice to add subtitles in parallel with the clearance process, choosing from several providers. 

If you use Clearcast themselves to provide your subtitles, they guarantee a 4 hours turnaround (usually 1 hour), will automatically deliver the subtitles to the broadcasters alongside your ad, and there’s no additional charge if your ad and subtitles need edits. 

They’ve also produced a Style Guide to ensure a consistent quality of subtitle output without detracting from your ad’s core messaging.

Find out more on their subtitling services here.

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