PERSPECTIVE: IPA feels confident as cracks show in Equity’s solidarity

Did you hear the one about the production company that got round the Equity strike by casting French actors, then discovered it would cost four times the agreed budget? And what about the eight prominent voiceover artists - all represented by the same agent, as it happens - who resigned from Equity so they can work as normal? Or the agency that has been selling itself to new-business prospects as the one that dared to stand up against the pounds 1 million-a-year voiceover king, Enn Reitel?

Did you hear the one about the production company that got round

the Equity strike by casting French actors, then discovered it would

cost four times the agreed budget? And what about the eight prominent

voiceover artists - all represented by the same agent, as it happens -

who resigned from Equity so they can work as normal? Or the agency that

has been selling itself to new-business prospects as the one that dared

to stand up against the pounds 1 million-a-year voiceover king, Enn

Reitel?



All these true stories have happened over the past six months since

Equity instructed its members to refuse work on UK commercials until it

reached a new agreement with advertisers. Wild horses will not drag the

names of the production company, agent or agency out of me, although

sharp-eyed readers with a few hours to kill could work out a couple of

them from Campaign’s news pages.



The problem is that the dispute is not hurting that much. True,

production companies are encountering casting problems, and the quality

of ads is suffering. But as far as clients are concerned, it’s business

as usual.



Agencies are using artists from the regional casting agencies, ’real

people’ or artists represented by the increasing number of

strike-breaking agents.



The endlessly versatile celebrity voices are oozing back. How many

amateurs, after all, can deliver a spirited Toilet Duck, dead on time,

with the emphasis on the product name and a few creative contributions

thrown in on the script for good measure? Even agents who supported the

Equity line are being asked by their artists to secure the best deal

they can and defy the strike. A letter circulated around production

companies last week from the artists’ agency, Lee’s People, concluded:

’better we all go back to work together than drift back to work one by

one’.



And yet the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising could have managed

its side of the dispute better. Early on, Equity made the PR running

thanks to Helen Mirren, the star of the Virgin Atlantic Upper Class

campaign, coming out as the first high-profile actor to support the

strike. Undeterred, Virgin’s agency cast Murray Lachlan Young, who has

been refused Equity membership, in its next ad for the airline. A PR

gift for the IPA, or it could have been.



This dispute has the words ’stalemate’ and ’IPA victory’ written all

over it. The one development was Equity’s offer to lift its boycott for

advertisers willing to work under an updated version of the 1991

agreement, but many agents report that they have not seen any

commercials under the new terms. Agents supporting the strike know they

can be replaced with ones that don’t and actors, their pay-cheques

dwindling, are returning to work as before. I call that a good

old-fashioned waste of time - what do you call it?



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