Advertisers, Actors Seek Contract Help

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The ad industry and key unions will meet Saturday to talk about jointly studying a new model for paying actors who appear in commercials on a burgeoning number of platforms.

Current contracts expire Oct. 29, 2006, and the unions and advertisers want to make sure the new contracts cover not only TV and radio, but the multiple new platforms.

Saying the current payment structure reflects the past 60 years, the unions--the Screen Actors Guild , the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, and the Joint Policy Committee on Broadcast Talent Union Relations for the Association of National Advertisers/American Association of Advertising Agencies--point out  that "with the opportunities presented by digital technology to reach consumers in new ways, both parties have recognized that a study analyzing adaptability of this technology to those structures would be particularly useful at this time."

That Oct. 29 date could be moved back if the independent study takes longer than that to complete.

The Joint Policy Committee, which will meet with the unions Saturday, has already been looking into getting outside help.

Last month, the committee put out a request for qualifications (RFQ) for an independent consultant who can "develop alternate methods to compensate actors for their participation in commercials that appear on television and radio as well as in the growing array of new media."

But while unions may be looking for more given the proliferating platforms, agencies want to point out how small some of those platforms are.

New-media appearances, say advertisers, have been added on to compensation packages without taking into account the increasingly targeted nature of the business.

"The payment structures in the current collective bargaining agreements with SAG/AFTRA were originally developed to meet the needs and problems of the early 1950s," said lead JPC negotiator Douglas J. Wood said March 15 in announcing the RFQ. "As different means of broadcasting were developed, new payment streams were added on to the contract, creating enormous administrative complexity, distortions in the allocation of compensation, and the potential for out-of-control costs."

His example of a distortion was "talent payments for broadcasts that reach very small audiences can today exceed the actual cost of the media."

Wood said that  the new model must take into account cellphones and iPods, suggesting the targeted nature of some of the new delivery systems needs to be factored in.

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