February 10, 2012 4:02pm PT by Eriq Gardner
Viacom Demands Money For Producing Reality Star's Acne Advertisement
It's well established that reality TV producers make cast members sign onerous contracts to appear on shows, but do these agreements allow stars to be loaned out to pitch acne treatments?
Viacom is now suing Zeno Corporation, the makers of an acne treatment, for owing almost $250,000 from deals to produce commercials featuring one of its reality stars. The complaint doesn't reveal which star that might be, but there's evidence to suggest it's Whitney Port from MTV's The Hills, who began hawking a zit-fighting device for Zeno in 2010.
Viacom won't say exactly how it came to be responsible for making Port a spokeswoman of the Zeno brand, but according to the lawsuit filed in New York state court on Wednesday, Zeno requested in early 2010 the "spokesperson services" of a well-known reality TV personality.
"Accordingly, on February 4, 2010, Zeno and Viacom entered into a Spokesperson Agreement pursuant to which the Spokeswoman would promote Zeno's products in various television and internet advertisements," says the complaint.
Viacom now alleges that Zeno breached this Agreement, along with a Production Services Agreement, by not making full payments. Viacom claims to have developed and produced ads that have aired and are still on Zeno's website. No word on what Port got for her troubles, whether Viacom acted as her agent or whether it was part of her Hills contract. She's not a co-plaintiff in this lawsuit.
As for the health of Viacom's direct marketing ad business that evidently has led the company down the path of having reality stars do zit commercials, a company spokesperson would only tell us that Viacom has "the ability to be very flexible in our marketing arrangements, and we try to be creative in meeting the needs of our clients and advertisers."