Home / Finance / Viacom plumbs the depths with sales staff lock-out as it switches £250m ad contract to Sky

Viacom plumbs the depths with sales staff lock-out as it switches £250m ad contract to Sky

Companies bang on about corporate social responsibility and all that that stuff endlessly but – at heart (maybe the wrong word) – many of them are shits.

Cue Viacom, proud new owners of Richard Desmond’s Channel 5.

Now ‘Dirty Dicky,’ who still owns the Express newspaper titles in the UK plus some grubby porn channels, is hardly a beacon of civilised behaviour. He has relentlessly ground down the hacks and anyone else who got in his way.

But even he would have been shocked by Viacom’s behaviour when, in the wake of its decision to switch its sales contract out of house to Sky, the first the 90-odd sales staff knew of it was when they turned up for work last Friday to find they were locked out of the building.

David-Lynn-VIMNViacom International Media Networks V-P for the UK, Australia and Eastern Europe David Lynn (left, presumably the person who ordained this rat-like behaviour) said: “We’re convinced Viacom’s interests are best served by a single point of advertising sales in the UK and Ireland and that Sky Media, with its strong track record of selling our pay-TV channels and its innovative approach to improving the targeting and effectiveness of TV advertising, is best placed to provide it.”

Well Sky may or may not be the right company to handle 5’s £250m sales contract – it already handles Viacom sales elsewhere. Viacom, which also owns MTV and Paramount Pictures among others so it’s hardly short of a few bob, may have have paid Dessie too much (£450m) for Channel 5. It’s also been harshly punished by Omnicom’s as yet unexplained decision to pull all its ads off 5 in favour of the much more expensive ITV and Channel 4.

Even so padlocks on the door is redolent of the lock-outs favoured by US ‘robber barons’ at the turn of the 20th century. They were, eventually, confounded by the hard-fought institution of trade unions and the spirited opposition of US president Teddy Roosevelt. Roosevelt may have been over-fond of slaughtering the available wildlife but he wasn’t averse to taking a well-aimed shot at irresponsible and immoral capitalists.

Viacom should be ashamed of itself.

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About Stephen Foster

Stephen is a former editor of Marketing Week and London Evening Standard advertising columnist. He wrote City Republic for Brand Republic and is a partner in communications consultancy The Editorial Partnership.
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