Antenna has hit out at Publicis for shutting agency, saying media owners will miss out on millions of euros
guardian.co.uk, Tuesday 14 February 2012 12.18 GMT
Maurice Levy Publicis Group
Maurice Lévy's Publicis Groupe has been criticised for its 'unprecedented action'. Photograph: Francois Mori/AP
Greek broadcaster Antenna has criticised Maurice Lévy's Publicis Groupe for shutting a local advertising agency, claiming it will cost media owners millions in payments for TV and radio campaigns, during what is a financially dire period for the country.
Publicis Groupe has taken the decision to close the Greek office of Leo Burnett, one of the French advertising giant's global ad networks, after it initially entered a pre-bankruptcy process last summer.
Alexander Holland, chief operating officer of Antenna's Greek operations, said a number of local media groups stand to lose multimillions of euros in unpaid fees for ad campaigns.
The broadcaster said Leo Burnett has booked ad campaigns for major clients including Procter & Gamble – historically Greece's largest advertiser – Ferrero and Samsung.
"This is the first default of an international client in the media industry since the beginning of the financial crisis," said Holland. "It puts high pressure on the country's entire media sector when an important advertising agency fails to meet its obligations."
Antenna added that it understands that Publicis Groupe is offering Greek media companies a fraction of the payments that they are owed by Leo Burnett. Antenna said that it has rejected the settlement proposal.
"It is unprecedented for an advertising agency to treat its trade partners in this way, without any reasonable explanation of the decision to default on due payable amounts for advertising broadcast," said Holland.
Antenna said it is considering a "range of options" in order to recover the fees owed by Leo Burnett.
A spokesman for Publicis Groupe said the company had done its best to reach the best deals it could with major media owners to pay some of the fees.
"We have undertaken long negotiations with the five most important TV channels and we have signed agreements with four of them," he said. "It means that in a sense four of the five channels considered that even if it was painful the deal was a fair outcome to a difficult situation."
He said Publicis Groupe has struck deals with Alpha TV – which until last month was majority controlled by former Channel 5 owner RTL – Star, Sky and Mega.
"We thought the deal we proposed to the TV channels was more than acceptable," he added. "We consider we have done everything possible to smooth a situation for the media owners in an advertising landscape that has been crippled."