Ad biz touts prod’n levels

Union challenges industry's claims

The ad industry has sounded a confident note a week before a planned return to the bargaining table with striking actors, insisting that current commercial production is in “very strong shape.”

“The unions have failed to stop commercial production,” negotiators proclaimed this week. “The industry has been able to complete commercial production over the last four months without the Screen Actors Guild and the American Federation of Television & Radio Artists.

“This is even more remarkable given the increased production necessitated by the Olympics that will air in September.”

The statements were immediately disputed by the unions, which have insisted that the quantity and quality of commercials have slid significantly during the four-month strike.

Lack of big names

“If I were in their shoes, I’d say the same thing, but the truth is that they don’t have major stars making ads and they’re using a lot of old ads,” said SAG spokesman Greg Krizman. “If they’re making so many new ads, why aren’t we seeing them?”

Krizman noted that 7 Up, Ford Motor and Wendy’s are holding off on new ads until the strike ends, and predicted that the work stoppage will cause significant declines in the ad industry’s third- and fourth-quarter profits.

The negotiators, in a statement to the Assn. of National Advertisers, admitted that the strike has created “inconvenience” for advertisers but noted that August production appeared to match that of July, when ad shoots totaled 85% of July 1999.

“Non-union actors have greatly benefited by the strike, capturing millions of dollars of work which, in the past, generally would have gone to SAG/AFTRA members,” the negotiators said.

They also portrayed the industry as having gained the upper hand during the four-month strike in the face of the unions’ insistence that they will never surrender on advertisers’ key demand to eliminate residuals for network TV ads in favor of upfront buyouts.

“We are still hopeful that we will be able to settle the strike during the September negotiations,” they said. “You may be assured that every effort will be made to come to a reasonable agreement that will reflect the current television industry structure.”

Close to routine

Steve Caplan, of the Assn. of Independent Commercial Producers, said production is operating at near-normal levels even though his organization has no specific numbers.

“All things considered, production has been quite strong,” he added. “We’re continuing to see a lot of producers leaving Los Angeles and New York to shoot in other domestic locations or overseas. Canadian stages are just saturated right now.”

Producers, Caplan continued, are hopeful that there will be a settlement soon so they can start shooting again in traditional locations in Los Angeles and New York without being picketed. “Our members want to work close to home.”

SAG and AFTRA members continued their efforts Tuesday against General Motors, which has been identified as the major corporate target for the rest of the strike because of the automaker’s use of non-union ads. Activists claimed they were able to slow down operations though pickets at GM corporate headquarters in Detroit and at a parts plant in the Los Angeles suburb of Santa Fe Springs, although GM reps have insisted the demonstrations have had no impact.

The unions plan to stage actions today in a dozen cities against AT&T, which has been targeted several times during the strike for its non-union ads.

The cast of “Frasier” will also hold a news conference today at the Paramount lot in Hollywood to declare they will wear gold ribbons in support of the strike during the Primetime Emmy awards telecast Sunday. The cast members will also ask their fellow nominees to do the same.

The cast will also ask the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences to urge ABC not to air non-union ads during the telecast. Cast member David Hyde Pierce, who is up for an Emmy, has been one of SAG’s most active high-profile members in support of the strike.

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