Tired of the same old commercials?

Don't expect many wonderful new words from our sponsors soon. The production of commercials for television and radio has been crippled since Dec. 19 by an actors' strike.

Yesterday the Screen Actors Guild and the American Federation of Radio and Television Artists (AFTRA) explained why they're striking at an AFL-CIO press conference. AFL-CIO president George Meany pledged his support to the cause, and some of the stars who seldom make commercials spoke on behalf of the strikers.

Ken ("Adam 12") McCord told how a United Airlines commercial being shot at the Los Angeles airport the other day was stopped when picketers repreatedly marched into camera range. The markers of a Lincoln-Mercury commercial "made the mistake of shooting in a public park," said McCord, "where picketers happened to be picnicking."

A union official claimed that the strike was "99.9 percent effective" in halting production of new commercials. But a United Airlines official later said that the advertising agencies for United and other firms had foreseen the strike and prepared a number of new commercials in advance.

Though few professional actors are showing up to work on commercials, some commercial production is continuing using amateur actors and craft union members who are bound by nostrike clauses in their contracts. However, said union officials, craft union members have assisted the actors in some cases by spreading the word on when and where commercials are scheduled to be shot, giving picketers a chance to show up.

The primary issue in the strike is a proposal by the advertisers and ad agencies to discontinue extra payments to actors for "altered lines and scenes" in the shooting of commercials. According to union officials, actors could be asked to shoot different commercials using the same set, or versions of one commercial using different sets, and receive payment only for one commercial under the proposed contract.

Several comparisons were drawn at the press conference. One union official said it would be like commissioning six chairs from a carpenter and paying only for one. Dennis ("McCloud") Weaver invoked bakers and loaves of bread in a similar analogy. Meany, a former plumbers' unionist, said the situation was as if eight bathrooms were commissioned and only one was bought.

Ruth ("All My Children") Warrick said that advertisers are willing to spend $250,000 a minute for network television commercial time, but actors' slaaries account for only two percent of an average commercial's budget.

Weaver appeared particularly agitated about the strike. "The producers are asking us to take their gamble with them without being able to share in their profits," he declared. "They want the whole hog, and we aren't going to give it to them." Asked if he appeared in commercials, Weaver said he had done one in the '50s and one a couple of years ago for BankAmericard.

The last negotiating session was held here Jan. 10 and lasted less than two hours. Both sides said their positions had not changed. John McGuinn, negotiator for the advertisers, concedes that non-union actors may not be as effective as famous faces but says that commercials are being produced regardless of the strike.