Airtime crisis as agencies ‘fail to honour’ sales deals

The ITV airtime market is being disrupted by the number of agencies which have failed to fulfill their 1995 airtime deals with sales houses.

Money from agencies’ debts with sales houses is believed to be moving rapidly into the market and skewing the station average price trading system by artificially bolstering demand.

Laser Sales is understood to be in dispute with The Media Centre because it has spent less than was agreed with the sales house. And there are persistent rumours that at least another five agencies, including names in the top five, are in a similar situation.

The Media Centre sources confirm it “has a problem” with the sales house, but deny that it has received legal threats over the shortfall between the deal and the agency’s actual spend, to be paid in cash. Estimates of the shortfall with Laser range from 500,000 to 1.2m.

“We are being used by Laser as a visible front for them to get tough,” says the source. “This will be resolved, as it is every year.”

Agencies negotiate discounts for their clients based on their expected spend or the proportion of it that is spent with any particular sales house. If the spend does not match the agreed deal, the sales houses ask for their discount to be repaid.

Laser is strict on the fulfilment of agreements after one of the participants in its predecessor The Time Exchange, Yorkshire Tyne Tees, had to repay advertisers when it was unable to fulfill audience guarantees in 1993.

Laser’s chief executive, Mick Desmond, was unavailable for comment.

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