Ad Industry Seeks to Revise Talent Fees

NEW YORK The organization that represents advertisers in contract negotiations with talent unions is looking for a consultant that will help revamp payment to actors who participate in integrated campaigns.

“We need a new, equitable approach to talent payment—one that recognizes that consumers are viewing commercials on cell phones and iPods, and advertisers are using digital editing to customize messages for very narrow audiences,” Douglas J. Wood, lead negotiator for the Joint Policy Committee of the American Association of Advertising Agencies and Association of National Advertisers, said in a statement. “There is no longer any relationship between the value received and the amount paid.”

Collective bargaining agreements forged in the 1950s ensured that actors would not only be paid session fees, but also residuals when ads aired on broadcast TV. As technology has developed, talent has collected new fees for every medium for which an ad is repurposed, be it a retail ad digitally edited for a regional audience or a TV spot rendered for online or streaming video. The result, Wood said, is compounded talent costs for advertisers and a costly administrative quagmire for the shops that manage talent payments.

The consultant hired would have TV, radio and labor relations experience and would study both the concerns of advertisers and the unions before proposing new compensation methods. Those alternatives will be considered during the fall bargaining process with the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) and the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (AFTRA), whose contract with the ad industry expires on Oct. 29.

Woods said both talent unions have been invited to participate in crafting the alternatives. A representative for SAG declined to comment, and a rep for AFTRA could not be reached.