Actors' Strike Hits Auto Industry

Monday, October 16th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

DETROIT (AP) — Some automakers say the ongoing Screen Actors Guild strike is making it difficult for them to make television commercials to launch their 2001 models.

The union has targeted General Motors Corp. for using nonunion actors and filming ads outside the United States during the strike that began in May. And Ford Motor Co. is without commercials for some crucial new vehicles since it pledged to stop making TV ads until the strike ended.

``We have been able to limp through things for the past five months but the 2001 vehicles are in,'' Nancy Carollo, a Lincoln spokeswoman, told The Detroit News in Sunday's editions. ``This has certainly put us under a lot of stress and pressure.''

The strike also has cost DaimlerChrysler AG longtime pitchman Edward Herrmann, the Tony Award winning actor whose booming voice narrates dozens of Dodge ads. To buy time, the automaker spliced together several old spots and created a montage ad — a Band-Aid approach, DaimlerChrysler spokesman Jay Cooney said.

``The reality was that we have a very aggressive product launch schedule that needed to be supported through effective advertising,'' Cooney said.

With Ford introducing its new Escape small sport utility vehicle this fall, a lack of TV advertising presented a problem.

``They were really put between a rock and a hard place,'' said Joseph Phillippi, an auto industry analyst with PaineWebber. ``Especially during the launch of a vehicle when you want to attract as many eyeballs as possible and TV becomes critical.''

Ford's ad agency, J. Walter Thompson of Detroit, created 15 two-page magazine ads, each with a sweepstakes geared to the publication's readership.

``It forced us to be more resourceful and creative,'' said ad agency president Peter Schweitzer. ``Clearly we have had to adjust and use other mediums.''

Recently, the automaker quietly filmed a few commercials in Canada and Mexico mostly for dealer groups.

Because of that, Ford can now expect protests, said Greg Krizman, a spokesman for the Screen Actors Guild in Los Angeles.

``Is Ford's word only good for as long as it's convenient?'' Krizman told the News. ``In that case, I guess they can look for picketers outside their assembly plants.''

The guild and the American Federation of Television and Radio Actors went on strike May 1 in a dispute over the pay structure for commercials that run on cable TV and the Internet. The 185,000 actors want compensation each time a commercial airs on cable or online, similar to the compensation they receive for network commercials.


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