Equity strike hits TV ads

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The Independent Online
Notice anything different about the TV ads in this year's run up to Christmas?

According to the actors' union Equity, you soon will.

The strike which has been preventing Equity members from recording new voiceovers or appearing on television commercials is now beginning to bite hard.

Since the autumn, advertising agencies have been busily trying to come up with ways around the problem. Most of their favourite voices are simply not prepared to work and impersonations of well-known stars are not allowed. If an agency does not have an artist already booked under a pre-existing contract, they are forced to make do with an animation or with the voices of non-Equity, inexperienced unknowns.

While the vast majority of union members are standing firm, rumours about blacklegs breaking the strike are rife.

Even Virgin Radio DJ Chris Evans this week felt moved to declare solidarity with his thespian friends. He told his listeners that, unlike some of his colleagues, he would not be working on any ad campaigns until the industrial action was called off.

The actress Jan Ravens, the woman who provided most recent voice of the "sexy" Cadbury's Caramac Bunny, is completely behind the strike despite the potential threat to her income. "The best voiceover artists are paid because they are either incredibly versatile, or very quick or extremely seductive," she says. "Generally actors don't make a lot of money and although they earn a lot from one studio session, it may be the only work they have that month."

The strike stems from the breakdown of pay negotiations earlier this year. Those representing the producers of television commercials stipulated that all Equity members should be prepared to accept a two thirds reduction in their eventual income from a repeated advert.

"I have never heard of anyone starting negotiations with a cut like this as a pre-condition," said Martin Brown of Equity.