The American Association of Advertising Agencies' (Four
A's) national television and radio committee is continuing to look into the double-billing
controversy stemming from complaints about Home & Garden Television last year.
In addition to double billing, Four A's communications
manager Martha Brown said, the committee is studying the commercial-verification process,
inspired by a recent spat involving Turner Network Television and Grey Advertising Inc.'s
MediaCom Worldwide media-buying operation.
The committee, chaired by Grey senior vice president Jon
Mandel, also met last Tuesday -- the opening day of the association's three-day annual
Media Conference at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Fla. But no public announcement about
that discussion was expected last week, according to Brown.
Both issues are likely to be ongoing topics of discussion,
she said, emphasizing, "I don't want to say, 'investigation.'"
Last fall, HGTV parent Scripps Networks said it had made
$2.5 million available for advertiser make-goods "related to possible underdelivery
of audience levels since 1997," which could have occurred "if local cable
systems covered [or pre-empted] a national spot," a spokesman explained at the time.
The Four A's subsequently sent letters to some cable
networks to "open a dialogue" about their procedures and the potential for
double billing, Brown said.
Since then, no other networks' names have surfaced as
having engaged in double billing -- a practice that hitherto had seemed to be limited to
Latin America and other non-U.S. markets.
As far as Scripps Networks CEO Ken Lowe is concerned,
double billing is no longer an issue. "That problem was put to bed in 1999," he
But agency buyers, like TN Media Inc. senior vice president
Howard Nass and Young & Rubicam Inc. executive vice president Bob Igiel, have
continued to express their concerns.
Igiel said he'd like to see the issue addressed during the
Cabletelevision Advertising Bureau's Cable Advertising Conference, March 23 in New York.
"It's an isolated incident," he added, "but one we need to keep from
The TNT/MediaCom tiff involved a discrepancy that occurred
last spring but that was only publicly disclosed in January. Mandel, also co-managing
director at Grey's MediaCom, was quoted in Advertising Age then as saying TNT had
initially denied running the wrong spot for an unspecified client, then later
"tampered" with its log. He has been unreachable for comment since then.
A Turner Broadcasting Sales Inc. spokesman at the time
downplayed the occurrence as a bookkeeping error that arose when a single spot ran
incorrectly last April, and he emphasized that it "has since been reconciled"
The Myers Group LLC in late January reported that Turner
Entertainment Networks scored highly in its latest survey on "overall stewardship of