Proposed actors' strike likely to affect ad quality

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If the expected commercial actors strike becomes a long-term affair, effects visible by early summer could include longer-than-expected runs of commercials and poorerquality TV spots.

"In the middle of June, you'll probably see a lot of commercials that would have ordinarily run their course, repeated," said Elhanan Stone, an attorney for Hall Dickler, New York, a law firm that specializes in advertising litigation.


Most TV advertisers had yet to alter marketing plans despite votes by the Screen Actors Guild and American Federation of Television & Radio Artists authorizing a strike. The strike was due to begin as soon as today.

"We haven't made any long-term contingency plans," said a Johnson & Johnson spokesman.

Other advertisers, such as Nike, said they would not be affected. Nike had already produced most of its commercials for the National Basketball Association playoffs airing in May and June, a company spokesman said. Though some athletes in Nike commercials are SAG or AFTRA members, the spokesman doubted the company's advertising would be affected by even a long-term strike.

Should the strike last for months, it may result in commercials with non-union actors, higher production costs and lower quality, said Mr. Stone. This occurred in 1978 and 1988 when strikes left some advertisers using non-union talent. Both strikes lasted a few weeks.

"Sometimes this was noticeable; sometimes not," Mr. Stone said. "If you want to produce a high-production commercial, such as The Gap dance spots, you are going to sweat to find good dancers."

A major headache for advertisers in the event of a strike, Mr. Stone said, would be finding voice-over talent. "That's a real problem," he said. "It can increase your production costs by having to do many takes. You might be able to get a trained actor, but he might not be able to do voice-overs."

Jeff David, president of his own voice-over production company, Second Wind Enterprises, said he expects to lose about 50% of his income should the strike last a significant length of time. Mr. David has done voice work for Bristol-Myers Squibb Co.'s Excedrin, Darden Restaurants' Red Lobster, Nabisco's Planter's peanuts, Mercedes-Benz USA and Panasonic Co.


"This is going to be bloody if this lasts longer than September," Mr. David said. "It's going to be terribly rough on performer, and it'll really put a bad light on the advertising world."

For the fall TV season, many advertisers try to complete work on commercials in June and July.

The major issue prompting the strike vote was advertisers' demand for a change in the compensation system for actors in network-aired commercials. The shift would move from a pay-per-play system to a predetermined, fixed amount for all airings of a spot. Additionally, advertisers want to keep a fixed fee for cable TV airings, while the unions want actors paid per play because cable revenue has grown significantly since the rules were instituted in the early 1980s. Unions also want the pay-per-play system instituted for the growing Internet ad world.

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