Clock Numbers Explained

John Ingham
September 15, 2020

For all the talk of Generation Z abandoning TV and the many new content platforms consigning TV to the dustbin, BARB calculates that commercial and on-demand TV still reaches 95% of the UK every week. And an average broadcast TV ad campaign in the UK gets 240 million views.

All those eyeballs are watching more than the established brands that for decades have been part of the TV ad landscape. The research company Thinkbox released research on 28th July that shows ‘digital natives’ such as Amazon, Netflix, eBay and Uber spent over £500 million in 2019 on TV advertising. Clearly, TV has a long way to go before it’s history.

Whether digital natives or bricks and mortar companies, there are almost 64,000 ads a year. If you have music in one (or more) of those ads that are a lot of people hearing your music. And each of those eyeballs should be generating royalties for you.

How can you maximise your understanding of what your royalty statement should be saying? For that you need to understand Clock Numbers.

What is a clock number?

A Clock Number is a unique ID number that identifies a specific TV Ad. It is used from the start of an ad’s creation right through to when the ad is broadcast and then reported.  The TV broadcasters use it to identify the right ad when they count the number of times it is aired and the PRS uses it to make sure they are paying the right composer for all those broadcasts.

It is the only thing that identifies an ad and the music within it.

How do I read a clock number?

You don’t really need to know how to read a Clock Number – you just need to know how many there are. But if you’re a production music composer or a hungry publisher, knowing who’s commissioned your music is valuable.

A clock number is made up of 13 letters and numbers in a combination that identifies the agency, the advertiser, the ad version number and the length.

This is what a clock number looks like: AMVBZBB003030.

The first three letters identify the ad agency. The next four letters are the advertiser. The next three numbers identify which version of the ad this is and the final three numbers are the length of the ad.

Looking at our example – not a real Clock Number – the agency is Abbot Meade Vickers and the advertiser is BT Broadband. (This advertiser code is made up by the agency, so it’s often obscure who the brand is.) This is the third version of the ad and it’s 30 seconds.

Clock numbers are unique

We said that each Number is unique. So right away there will be a separate Number for each different ad length – if it’s for 60 seconds, 30 seconds, 15 and 10 seconds, that’s four different Numbers right there. If you’re only aware of two of them then you may be missing some of the performance royalties due to you.

But that’s just the beginning. Ads these days are often personalised – targeted at a specific group of people and no-one else. This can be as simple as a voiceover at the end saying ‘On sale at our Superstore in Bournemouth’ – repeated for every city and town in the country. Or it can be as sophisticated as picking 6,000 people who live within a mile of Manchester Picadilly station. (A real campaign, described on the Sky Q website.) Each of them is a separate ad and has its own Clock Number. And each Clock Number has the composer’s royalties attached to it.

These micro-campaigns can be significant. In a recent ad for a travel company, featuring a famous pop singer, there were 199 Clock Numbers. The smallest of them was four broadcasts. The biggest was over 2,800.

Then there are the musicians lucky enough to have one of their songs picked for a daytime broadcaster. These brands – double glazing merchants, injury lawyers, furniture wholesalers – may lack the cache of a major car brand or cosmetics, but boy are they lucrative.

A classic soul artist sings on 401 different versions – a lovely day indeed.

Punk royalty do the bop in 358 personalised versions.

And then there’s “Knock On Wood”. Broadcast continuously for six years, there are a stunning 3,580 different Clock Numbers attached to it.

The point is this: if you aren’t aware of all the Clock Numbers attached to your composition, can you be sure that you have received all the royalties due to you?

The bad news

How do I get all my Clock Numbers? That‘s an interesting question, because for some reason Clock Numbers are treated like a mystical prize that must be hidden away. No-one wants to share them.

The good news

soundlounge’s sister company Track Record has data on every UK TV ad since 1 January 2014. We can tell you all your Clock Numbers, how many broadcasts are against each of them, and the revenue you should have received. We have performed audits for large production music companies, major brands and music publishers, and individuals.

If you would like to make sure that you have received all the royalties due to you, give us a call. At the least, you will get all your Clock Numbers.

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