Actors Union and Ad Industry ‘Reach Agreement’ After Droga5 Office Stunt

By Patrick Coffee 

Remember back in January when the SAG-AFTRA (formerly known as The Screen Actors Guild) did the thing that half this blog’s readers have been dying to do by showing up at Droga5’s downtown headquarters and basically trolling the agency?

Their stunt attracted the attention of the friendly neighborhood NYPD primarily because the office building in question is privately owned and generally averse to hosting protests. Also, somebody called the cops to complain. The reason they did it was that Droga and many other agencies often cast non-union actors in their campaigns for some obscure reason like, “It’s less expensive.”

The SAG folks may have singled out Droga because the agency is partly owned by the massive talent operation William Morris Endeavor, but their motivation is clear from the agency’s own response:


“Droga5 remains a non-signatory to the SAG commercials contract, enabling us to engage in non-union shoots when it is deemed appropriate.”

You can go ahead and read “when it is deemed to appropriate” to mean “whenever possible, probably,” so the roots of the complaint are pretty clear whether you agree with the actors who think they are getting screwed or not.

And you won’t believe what happened next…yesterday SAG-AFTRA and ANA-4A’s Joint Policy Committee on Broadcast Talent Union Relations reached a “tentative” agreement to resolve their differences after what we presume to have been much negotiating.

The press release tells us that “Key details of the agreement, including the number of years it covers, were not disclosed at press time.” The full deal will, however, be presented to the SAG-AFTRA national board of directors at its meeting later this week. And observers like the Hollywood Reporter believe that it will involve more than $1 billion in overall yearly revenues.

This decision follows the ascension of Gabrielle Carteris to acting president and negotiating committee co-chair of SAG-AFTA; her promotion followed the March 23rd death of former president Ken Howard, who we will always remember as Hank Hooper of Kabletown fame.

Here’s a key line from her announcement:

“The tentative agreement delivers essential gains while properly positioning us for future growth in digital and social media. As content evolves, we are poised to grow work opportunities that support members and their families.”

There you have it: the union wanted to ensure clients can’t argue that previous rules don’t apply to anything labeled “social” or “digital,” thereby negating the leverage that comes from collective bargaining over legally binding contracts…or the main reason unions exist in the first place.

Douglas J. Wood, lead negotiator for the ANA-4A’s, wrote, “Despite very complex issues that initially had significant differences for both sides of the table, through open and honest collaboration we reached a balanced and fair agreement for all parties.”

We have little doubt that the advertising industry will hereby cease to be cheap.