Safeway’s new TV ads side-step Equity rules

Safeway is launching a new advertising campaign featuring the voices of celebrities Cilla Black and Jeremy Clarkson – to help it bypass the dispute between the ad industry and the actor’s union, Equity.

The row over repeat fees paid to actors for voiceovers has led to a boycott of TV commercials by Equity members since September 26.

Safeway has been badly hit as its “Lightening the Load” campaign features children Jack and Molly dubbed by stars such as Martin Clunes and Paul Whitehouse, who both belong to the union.

Safeway customer development director Roger Partington says: “We have found a route round the problem by using non-Equity celebrities. I am not willing to be pushed off air until the dispute is resolved.”

The campaign, which breaks on March 29, features a new child, two-year-old Jessica Baker Smith, dubbed with the voice of Cilla Black.

The voice of Jeremy Clarkson will be introduced in the next ad, and Safeway says a variety of other celebrities will be used in forthcoming ads.

The Equity dispute began a year ago when advertisers tried to cut repeat fees to voiceover actors and singers and took a tough stance on negotiations with the union.

Equity claims its latest move to break the deadlock – new contracts introduced at the end of January – is splitting the advertising industry. A spokesman says 130 of the contracts have been signed by “60 or 70 different agencies”.

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