Unilever pulls ads off Channel 4 after rates talks end in deadlock

LONDON - Unilever has pulled its advertising from Channel 4 after its media agency, MindShare, failed to agree terms on a new airtime deal.

The absence of Unilever's brands, which include Lynx and Peperami, could leave Channel 4 with an ad revenue shortfall in excess of £10m. However, given Channel 4's strong ratings performance this year, advertisers willing to pay a higher rate than Unilever could compensate for the loss.

MindShare took control of Unilever's media account at the beginning of the year and was immediately required to renegotiate the majority of its TV deals ahead of their expiry at the beginning of April. It was also faced with making improvements to its costs as part of the assurances it made to secure the business.

However, a deal with ITV negotiated by Unilever's previous agency, Initiative, which does not expire until the end of the year, has put pressure on MindShare to make savings from its deals with the other broadcasters. The agency locked horns with a number of TV companies last month in a bid to achieve these discounts and it is understood that its deals with five and Sky Media have now been successfully renegotiated.

Unilever will be keen to resolve the impasse with Channel 4 -- ostensibly, the advertiser buys "housewife" airtime, but brands such as Lynx target young men, of which Channel 4 is a major supplier of commercial impacts.

No one from MindShare would comment, although insiders said they thought the deal with Channel 4 would be successfully renegotiated.

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