Advertisers, Unions Start Talking

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As advertised, the advertising industry and representatives of the Screen Actors Guild and the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists met last weekend to discuss how to proceed on new contract negotiations when the current talent contracts expire Oct. 29 for commercial actors.

The two are discussing whether to commission a joint study by an independent consultant to deal with issues surrounding the new distribution channels for TV ads, including the Internet and cellphones.

No decision was made on the study. The two sides agreed to future preliminary talks, but set no dates.

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--have pointed 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 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, suggesting the targeted nature of some of the new delivery systems needs to be factored in and arguing that talent payments for such targeted audiences can exceed the cost of the media buy.

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