Publicis contests writ in Clunes legal dispute

Publicis is to challenge a lawsuit by the comedy actor, Martin Clunes, who is suing the agency for more than pounds 200,000 over a pair of commercials he was to have starred in and directed, but which were never made.

Publicis is to challenge a lawsuit by the comedy actor, Martin

Clunes, who is suing the agency for more than pounds 200,000 over a pair

of commercials he was to have starred in and directed, but which were

never made.



A High Court writ issued last week by Clunes and his company, Buffalo

Pictures, claims damages for breach of a contract to make the films in

December last year.



Publicis this week denied that any contract was agreed and pledged to

contest the allegations.



According to the writ, the Men Behaving Badly star agreed an oral

performance contract with the agency under which he would have been paid

pounds 200,000 for appearing in the commercials.



It also claims there was an agreement for Buffalo to employ Clunes as

director of the films at a rate of pounds 5,000 a day.



Richard Hytner, the Publicis chief executive, would not say what product

the proposed commercials would have been advertising.



He said: ’We talked to Clunes about working with him, both as an actor

and a director, but we decided not to proceed and no agreement was

reached.’



Clunes, whose best-known ad work is as the voice of the precocious

toddler, Harry, in Bates Dorland’s Safeway campaign, has had ambitions

to establish himself as a commercials director since he directed

Staggered, a Bafta award-winning feature film, in 1994. At the end of

last year he signed as a commercials director for BFCS.



A spokesman for Buffalo Pictures said: ’We have no comment to make on

the case and neither has Martin.’



The last major legal battle between a commercials director and an agency

happened in 1993 when Tony Kaye became embroiled in more than two years

of litigation with Saatchi & Saatchi.



The pounds 730,000 dispute concerned a disagreement about production

costs incurred during the making of a 1992 commercial for British

Airways. It was eventually settled in April 1995 on ’mutually acceptable

terms’.