One of the major components of broadcasting commercials on national networks is obtaining pre-approval from the network clearance departments. Such clearance considers many aspects of a commercial’s content, but often the most challenging area is substantiation of claims.

The networks require that all advertising claims be valid and adequately substantiated. A research editor at each network reviews substantiation submitted by advertisers to determine the acceptability of claims.

The nature of the claim being made will determine the level of substantiation required. This may include laboratory testing, clinical studies, consumer preference surveys, consumer perception studies, field tests, expert reports, and more.

All too often, advertisers do not understand the procedures of submitting claim substantiation or how best to assure that the process runs smoothly in order to prevent delays in airing. The following are some helpful tips to keep in mind when substantiating claims with the networks:

  • Substantiation may be submitted to the networks electronically as a PDF, via a link to an FTP site for downloading, or by messenger.
  • Substantiation should be submitted well in advance of production. Supporting documents take time to review so submit support materials as early in the clearance process as possible. Keep in mind that the more complex and voluminous the documents, the longer they will take to be reviewed.
  • After an initial review of the substantiation, the networks may request additional documentation or information. Therefore, anticipate and build into your schedule multiple rounds of substantiation to the networks before claims are finally approved.
  • When submitting clinical studies, the networks will need to see the complete test protocol and methodology. The more you hold back from them, the longer it is likely to take to obtain clearance. Keep in mind that substantiation documents submitted to the networks are kept strictly confidential and are only shared internally on a need-to-know basis.
  • Whenever possible, submit substantiation to the network in one submission, not piecemeal. This helps expedite the review process by eliminating the need for research editors to go back wasting time revisiting support materials they have previously reviewed.
  • When in doubt, ask. Assume nothing. Silence is not approval. The network editors are there to answer any questions you have – so call them. And remember, building a relationship with them is a critical part of clearing commercials.

So there you have it. The ABCs, CBSs, NBCs, and Foxs of network clearance. Happy submitting

Marilyn Colaninno is director of rights and clearances at Reed Smith and is responsible for clearing commercials for the firm’s many clients in the advertising industry. If you have specific questions, please contact Marilyn directly at 212-549-0347 or at