LIVE ISSUE/THE AFVPA: Has the voiceover wrangle damaged the AFVPA? - As the row escalates, the trade body’s best may not be enough. By Emma Hall

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 So her answers to questions such as ’Is the AFVPA out of date?’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.

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questions such as ’Is the AFVPA out of date?’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

little shaky.

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

market forces.

’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

association itself.

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.

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