The behind-closed-doors business of TV airtime sales erupted into public
this week as ITV sales house Laser said it is to sue CIA Media-network
UK for almost pounds 1m for undelivered advertising revenue.
Laser has told its solicitors to issue writs against CIA. It has also
taken the unprecedented step of sending 30 letters to top advertisers
warning that if the dispute is not settled by January 1 it will refuse
CIA both credit and the agency discount on promised spend.
Laser would demand money up front for airtime bookings, in a move which
could jeopardise media campaigns and budgets for advertisers. The
letters were sent to clients including Commercial Union, Daewoo, Lloyds
TSB and Wrigley.
But Mick Desmond, chief executive of Laser Sales, said: ‘The dispute is
with the agency, not with its clients.’
The conflict centres on the amount of airtime traded during 1995. Laser
claims CIA committed to a certain spend and received discounts for it
but did not deliver.
Laser claims that four ITV stations are owed cash. They are Yorkshire
Tyne Tees TV (pounds 785,081), Granada TV (pounds 74,722), LWT (pounds
115,201) and Border TV (pounds 4,353).
It is the first time an ITV sales house has ever issued a writ against a
media buying agency and could signal a radical shake-up in the way media
deals are done.
CIA has sent out letters to its clients stating that there is a dispute
and explaining its case. The letter refers to Laser’s ‘heavy-handed and
aggressive tactics’ during the negotiations at Laser’s headquarters in
Gray’s Inn Road.
A Laser spokesman confirmed there is also a shortfall in CIA’s 1996
forecasts. He said: ‘CIA has instructed us to increase prices for
airtime to resolve the problem.’ The revised prices have been given in
the letters sent out by Laser.