Cecilia Garnett, chairman of the Advertising Film and Video
Producers’ Association, has heard it all before. So her answers to
questions such as ’Is the AFVPA out of date?’ and ’Has the AFVPA lost
credibility in the industry?’ are plausible and well rehearsed.
But when her association was jilted last week by the Institute of
Practitioners in Advertising and the Incorporated Society of British
Advertisers from negotiations with the actors’ union, Equity, over
voiceover fees, Garnett’s answers to these questions started to look a
By unilaterally sending out an open letter to 40 agencies declaring it
no longer supported the stance taken by the IPA and ISBA, the AFVPA
alienated itself from two powerful industry bodies with which it needs
regular contact on a wide range of issues (Campaign, last week).
Although Garnett and her followers insist that falling out on this
single issue will not affect the overall relationship between the three
parties, sources inside the IPA and ISBA indicate that last week’s split
was the logical outcome of a great deal of acrimony that has existed
between the parties.
’How can we talk to them in confidence now they’ve written an open
letter to 40 agencies?’ one of Garnett’s adversaries asks.
The division over the Equity dispute follows the long-running spat
between the AFVPA and the Creative Directors Forum over transparency and
costs in commercials production. Senior figures in the ad industry are
losing patience with Garnett and her trade body.
The AFVPA has around 140 members, nine of which make up its core policy
committee, a group that formulates policy and makes recommendations to
members at monthly meetings.
A main criticism of the AFVPA is that its most active members are the
less successful ones who have a lot of time on their hands. And they are
the ones with most to gain from wallowing in the past and maintaining
the status quo, which does a lot to protect production companies from
’The AFVPA must stop living in the past. It needs to take stock and
consider how it is run,’ one critic insists.
Garnett is the only person willing to go on the record to discuss the
AFVPA’s future. Off-the-record chats with production and ad industry
sources reveal a lot of hypocrisy and misinformation.
Garnett says: ’In so far as it is possible to be representative, we are
- 95 per cent of production companies are members. We benefit from the
richness of our membership, made up of big, small, established and new
Modernisation at the AFVPA is part of an ongoing process that shuns
radical change. ’The policy committee is elected every two years and we
try to get some new blood in at every election,’ Garnett reveals.
But the AFVPA’s primary objective is to keep up with external
developments in the industry rather than look inwards to shake up the
European integration will throw up many pitfalls and opportunities,
which somebody will need to get to grips with if UK companies are to
succeed in the wider environment. And Garnett is also working on a code
of practice for the use of animals in commercials, as well as holding
regular seminars on health and safety.
The body’s participation in Pliatzky 2, the revised commercials
production procedures book brought out last year by a joint working
committee involving the IPA and ISBA, was crucial. The AFVPA is involved
in the disagreement over filming costs and has played a vital role in
’I am open to criticism. I’m human,’ Garnett, known for her abrasive
style, adds. ’It is better that criticisms are made to my face so they
can be discussed. Of course, members will have gripes but we do a
reasonable job - occasionally, a very good job.’
During the Equity dispute she has been accused of ’biting the hand that
feeds’ by refusing to give in to every whim of the agencies and clients
involved. ’We have a responsibility to represent our members and their
views, some of which may be unpalatable,’ she stresses.
Compared with most of her opponents, Garnett comes across as open,
sanguine and reasonable. Her agenda - the welfare of AFVPA members - is
clear and unpolitical.
But it looks as if the AFVPA needs to reflect on its role in the
A trade body will always cause friction but a disagreement with the IPA
and ISBA should not lead to such a public falling out. ’We have plenty
of disagreements but they are usually kept quiet. I maintain regard and
respect for the IPA, especially John Raad (the IPA’s deputy
director-general and its chief negotiator in the Equity dispute), and I
expect that to continue,’ Garnett says.
The AFVPA became involved in talks with Equity because it has
traditionally been included in such negotiations. Production companies
are responsible for actors on the set and, if a settlement is reached
with Equity, the AFVPA must be brought in to make the agreement into a
practical working reality for its members.
Perhaps the AFVPA should not have been involved in the negotiations, led
by Equity’s general secretary, Ian McGarry. Although affected by the
dispute, AFVPA members can have no influence on a pay settlement.
Production companies need a voice - but the AFVPA must know its place.