French Shops Brace For New Media Law

PARIS – The French advertising industry is on pins and needles as it awaits the imminent ruling by the Conseil Constitutionnel, the French equivalent of the Supreme Court, as to the constitutionality of the loi Sapin, the law which dramatically changes the way media is bought and sold in France.
Though the decision isn’t expected until early this week, many key industry leaders are bracing for the law being ruled constitutional as passed. However, Jean-Michel Carlo, vice chairman of BDDP Worldwide, urged caution before the ruling is made. ‘Though there’s little chance the whole law will be deemed unconstitutional,’ he said, ‘a ruling that even just one or two elements weren’t legal could change the law dramatically.’
For an industry already starting to reel from the effects of an economic slowdown, the consequences of the Sapin – whereby media will no longer be able to remunerate agencies for recommending them and clients will have to be shown precise bills for all above and below-the-line buys – will be economically severe. Some shops, such as Young & Rubicam, have begun laying people off in anticipation of the law being ruled legal and its subsequent enactment April 1. Other agencies, such as Alice, a member of the CDP Network, are trying to avoid layoffs by reducing salaries. Zenith, the Saatchi & Saatchi-owned media buying group, has cut seven or eight of a total staff of 29 in its French office. Even if implemented, Bernard Brochand, president of DDB Needham International, vowed agencies will still try to amend the law after the March legislative elections when the ruling Socialists are expected to be swept from power. ‘The law is not acceptable the way it stands,’ he said. ‘It’s not good for our clients, the media or agencies.’
Daniel Tilles writes for CB Communication News in Paris.
Copyright Adweek L.P. (1993)