Terms and conditions or Ts&Cs, also sometimes referred to as “legals”, “caveats” or “tags”, can get added onto the end of radio ads for a variety of different sectors. However, unlike other media, for radio they have to be read aloud in real-time, which can be an issue if they become too long and complicated.
So why are they needed, what effect do they have and are there ways of reducing their length? This guide is not intended in any way to compromise the regulations which necessitate Ts&Cs, but to clarify their purpose and illustrate ways of making them work as effectively as possible for both brand and consumer, as well as compliant with current regulations.
The contradictory nature of long and complex Ts&Cs
It can be tempting to include lots of information in the Ts&Cs to avoid risk of misleading by omission, but all the evidence points to the fact that this can have the opposite effect.
Over a number of years, Radiocentre have commissioned a lot of research into the effectiveness of Ts&Cs on radio. The focus has been on financial information, but the same general principles can be applied to other sectors. Further information can be found here, but below are just some of the reasons why long and complex Ts&Cs on radio fail to hit the mark on consumer protection:-
- 98% of radio listening is in real-time, so Ts&Cs read out on air have to be heard and processed there and then
- Consequently the vast majority (over 72%) of listeners would prefer to read Ts&Cs in their own time where they have a better chance of absorbing and understanding them.
- Over 60% of listeners (and 70% of 18-24s) believe the terms and conditions are merely there to protect the advertiser, so they just zone out and stop listening.
- Recall of figures can be particularly problematic and a challenge for sectors such as finance, motors and telecoms. When important figures are embedded in long and complex Ts&Cs, recall is less than 4%, even immediately after listeners have heard the ad, and, worse case, can drop to zero when radio listening is accompanied by other tasks (9 out of 10 listening occasions).
- However on a positive note, research also demonstrates that when Ts&Cs are reduced to focus on critical information only, the likelihood of listeners recalling important figures can treble or even quadruple.
The challenge for advertisers and their legal or compliance teams is how to comply with the rules to ensure listeners are adequately informed, but in a way which doesn’t overload the listener and render the Ts&Cs ineffective.
Addressing the Ts&Cs challenge
If your ad is just a branding message or a simple offer which needs no qualification then you won’t need any Ts&Cs. And some Ts&Cs are fine if they are relatively clear and simple. But what about when those Ts&Cs get longer and more complicated (a general guide would be longer than 5 seconds)? How do you comply with the rules whilst ensuring your Ts&Cs are as clear and simple as possible so listeners can absorb and understand them? Below are some suggestions:
Sometimes the Ts&Cs become necessary because a single detail about the offer has been included e.g. an interest rate or monthly cost for a credit ad, or a limited price offer. So it is worth considering whether that detail is really necessary on radio.
Radio works extremely well at building brand awareness and reinforcing messages in other media but, as our Ts&Cs research demonstrates, it is not always the place for lots of detail. Consider how radio can be used to boost the effectiveness of your campaign in the context of other media.
What’s important: telling them about the specific detail which is necessitating those Ts&Cs or encouraging them to have a look online for more information about your offer?
Make sure that any Ts&Cs included in your ad are really necessary before you sign it off. Remember you may be doing your consumers a disservice if you make them too complicated.
Sometimes advertisers include terms at the end of radio ads which aren’t always needed in order to comply with the rules, resulting in Ts&Cs becoming even longer. It might seem simpler to take a “belt and braces” approach but if it results in too much information this isn’t going to help either you or your consumer. You may think you are “informing” but you might be having the opposite effect.
Observation : People often put ‘conditions apply’ or ‘ts and cs apply’ in an ad without really thinking about what claim it relates to and whether it’s really needed. For example, simply giving a price in an ad doesn’t necessarily mean a conditions tag is needed.
One of the sectors where Ts&Cs can become particularly long is motors, often when the ad includes a financial offer. To address this, in January 2020 the FCA approved the publication of FCA Confirmed Industry Guidance for Motors in radio advertisements. This acknowledges that lengthy Ts&Cs aren’t always in the interests of consumers and lists a number of common terms which get included in motors credit or lease offers on radio but aren’t always required and explains why. The list is not designed by any means to be exhaustive but it does cover some of the most common examples.
An important piece of legislation which the Advertising Standards Authority considers when investigating complaints is the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations (CPRs), also cited in Appendix 1 of the BCAP Code.
Under the CPR’s the effect of an advertisement is generally considered in the context of the average consumer the ad is talking to and whether the omission of information is likely to lead the consumer to take a course of action which he or she wouldn’t otherwise have taken.
Consider what difference adding that extra piece of information will really make to the consumer. Is it something you would expect your consumer to know anyway or would excluding it result in the listener taking an altogether different course of action which he or she wouldn’t otherwise have taken?
Sometimes we get examples of Ts&Cs which include information which has already been stated in the ad itself. Remember, when the Ts&Cs at the end are too long the listener is more likely to zone out so it’s not worth including the information twice.
Once having worked out what Ts&Cs are needed for a particular advertisement, it’s worth trying to find ways of and making sure the most important information lands effectively without any negative impact on the brand. For example:
- If the information is central to the offer, could some of it be included in the ad itself?
- Don’t try to gabble them so fast that it’s difficult for the ear to follow. Not only is it against the rules but it can irritate the listener. Always remember that any Ts&Cs you do need to include must be audible.
- Think about how you can make the Ts&Cs sound better. Using the same voiceover at the end and even retaining the same music bed behind the Ts&Cs can make them easier on the ear. But remember, if you do this, the Ts&Cs must still be heard – don’t use music just to drown them out!