Unilever keeps ads off Sky in deal stalemate

Unilever, one of the UK's highest TV spenders, is not advertising on Sky channels owing to problems in negotiating its annual deal with the broadcaster.

Initiative Media, Unilever's agency, is still in talks with Sky, but the broadcaster confirmed that Unilever ads are currently not showing on its channels. It is still unclear when Unilever will return to Sky.

This follows a stalemate between Sky and the media agency MindShare, which led to the agency's clients not running on Sky channels as a result of a dispute over the terms of the agency's deal.

MindShare clients, including Kellogg, did not appear on Sky in the first weeks of the year. However, as Campaign went to press, MindShare clients were returning to Sky. Andy Zonfrillo, the agency's head of TV, said: "Airtime is going out on Sky." But Sky said it still did not have a deal for 2004 in place.

MindShare is also one of the agencies, with ZenithOptimedia, that is still negotiating with ITV over the terms of its 2004 contracts. These are usually in place by 31 December but because of the knock-on effects of the ITV merger, some have yet to be agreed. However, advertising from clients of these agencies is still running on ITV.

Antony Young, the chief executive of ZenithOptimedia, said: "Because of changes on the ITV side, negotiations have been pushed back. But they're no more acrimonious than usual."

ITV's £10 million Coronation Street sponsorship deal with Cadbury is also being renegotiated with Cadbury's recently appointed agency, Starcom Motive, pushing for a better deal.

The broadcaster may be forced to look for another sponsor but Cadbury is banking on the possibility that it will prefer to reach an agreement as the search for a new sponsor may take several months and cost ITV millions in revenue.

Cadbury's sponsorship period expired at the end of 2003 but its idents are still running around the soap as part of a two-week grace period.