THE IPA/ISBA POSITION
The ad industry’s representative bodies call on Equity to drop
pre-conditions and start talking
The Equity dispute over artists’ fees for commercials voiceovers moved
on to a new footing this week with an outspoken attack on the ad
industry by Harry Enfield, and news both of actors breaking the strike
and agencies preparing to use actors at the old, disputed rates.
As many observers remain bemused as to what the strike is really about,
let alone how the situation became this serious, Campaign sought to
present the views of both IPA/ISBA and Equity without editorial comment.
Unfortunately the industry’s representative bodies claimed they would be
unable to agree on a suitable statement in time. Instead we’ve
summarised a statement we were sent last week, purporting to be
IPA/ISBA’s latest position.
- It was Equity which withdrew from the negotiations in February 1997
and which refuses to meet IPA/ISBA unless we drop any proposal to vary
the 1991 agreement for voiceovers.
- IPA/ISBA remain minded to seek to make an agreement. However, we
remain resolute in seeking one which contains a significant reduction in
- IPA/ISBA have made no proposals to change the basis of remuneration
for featured visual artists and have made an offer to improve
substantially the terms for walk-ons.
- IPA/ISBA have made no proposals which would have led to some roles
currently cast as featured being cast as walk-ons. On the other hand, we
have proposed that guidelines and tapes designed to clarify the
definitions be incorporated into the agreement.
- Although there are isolated cases involving individual celebrities, TV
ads of high quality continue to be widely produced in spite of the
existence of two instructions from Equity to its members not to accept
- If actors or artists, through following Equity’s instructions, are
prevented from accepting roles in TV commercials, then it is likely that
more scripts will be written which do not require them.
- For voiceover roles, the evidence is that engagements are being made
at a level of fees lower than the now defunct 1991 agreement would have
required, including many below the pre-existing minimum.
- IPA/ISBA believe that any resolution involving Equity can only come
about by the union being willing to return to the negotiations which it
left in February 1997, and dropping the pre-condition that any new
agreement must provide for the same structure and scale of use-fee
payments for non-visual as for visual artists.
- IPA/ISBA are not planning with the expectation of the continued
involvement of ACAS, but we would be willing to respond to ACAS
- The meeting of IPA chiefs, heads of TV and creative directors last
week gave a unanimous endorsement of the current negotiating stance.
THE EQUITY POSITION
Ian McGarry, the general secretary of the actors’ union, says
negotiation can resolve the dispute
The damaging and unwanted dispute between Equity and the advertising
industry need never have happened. It is undermining the quality of
advertising and costing the industry money. If the industry’s
negotiating team would agree to talks with Equity without setting
pre-conditions, we believe it would be over in days.
The negotiating team claims that the industry is paying too much to
actors who do voiceovers and has proposed that their earnings should be
cut by two-thirds. No talks are currently taking place because the
employers have insisted that Equity must accept in advance that the
talks will be about savage cuts in fees for voiceovers, otherwise there
would be no agreement at all. They must have known when they tabled this
proposition that it would be unacceptable to us. Equity, on the other
hand, has always been willing to negotiate on any element of our claim
Why can’t the employers do the same?
As a result of this impasse, Equity members have been refusing to work
in all UK television commercials since September last year.
But in any event, is there any truth in the claim that the industry is
paying too much? The system of calculating repeat fees, which is now
under attack, was introduced in 1991 at the industry’s insistence. If
there has been any escalation of costs in voiceover fees since 1991 -
and we have seen little evidence of it - it can only be because of
individual negotiations freely entered into by agencies when contracting
It certainly has not resulted from the Equity minimum basic studio fee
of pounds 79.90 and the use-fees which stem from it. If there is a
problem, then it is entirely of the industry’s making and should not be
used to attack the basic protections provided for in the Equity
Industry insiders calculate that the fees paid to all the actors in an
average television campaign make up between 1 and 3 per cent of the
media budget. Fees going to voiceover artists make up less than half of
1 per cent. Employing professional performers in UK commercials is
extremely cost-effective. It is certainly cheaper than animation or
shooting the ads abroad - two methods the industry is trying to use to
avert the effects of this dispute.
The advertising industry is highly successful. Equity members make a
crucial contribution to this success - it is, after all, their voices
and their performances that have been so effective in selling the
Our members want to continue to contribute to that success, but it
appears that the industry’s negotiating team is prepared to risk
long-term damage to the industry by its stubborn refusal even to try to
find a mutually acceptable solution by negotiation.
Surely we are not alone in wanting to get back to making high-quality,
highly successful award-winning commercials.