Early on the morning of April 1, 2009, the Joint Policy Committee of the major advertising industry groups reached a tentative agreement on new contracts that will govern the compensation provided to actors represented by the Screen Actors Guild and the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, through March 31, 2012. The agreements still need to be approved by the union boards and members, with voting expected by the middle of May. Leading the team representing the Joint Policy Committee was Rimon Partner Douglas J. Wood.
The basic terms call for an increase of about 5.1 percent in actors’ compensation over the next three years, and higher advertiser contributions to the unions’ health and retirement funds. However, over time, a limit on the contributions advertisers need to make to the unions’ pension and health benefits—up to the first $1 million of salary—will also go into effect.
The tentative accords include a slight increase in fees for commercials that run in new-media formats, but specifically set aside funds for a two-year study focused on examining and restructuring the compensation formulation for actors in commercials to a model whereby they would be paid based on number of viewers (i.e., ratings), and not merely on how many times the commercial airs.
You can’t get any closer to the action than by talking to lawyers at Rimon. If you are an advertiser, an advertising agency, media executive, or anyone involved in commercial production, you need to talk to us. Call us now. We don’t just have the news – we are the news!
Those name brands appearing in hit shows. Those logos on the motion picture screen. The characters at the breakfast table with a favorite cereal. The star driving around in a particular automobile. The airline shown flying the lead character off to an exotic destination. Reality? Coincidence? Hardly. They are the result of contracts between the entertainment company or producers and the advertisers, and they represent a growing and important trend in marketing to consumers, along with the Internet, as reaching market segments through traditional radio and television advertising becomes increasingly difficult in our on-demand, fast-forward world.
In some cases, such “branded” entertainment is subtle—inserting itself into a scene or a sequence quite seamlessly and, not necessarily inconsistent with, reality. In other cases—“Harold and Khumar Go to White Castle”—yes, this really was the name of a movie, as was “Akeelah and the Bee,” which Starbucks helped finance and promote. In case you didn’t know, the FCC (and the FTC) regulate advertising on television—the FCC’s regulations concerning disclosure arose primarily from the quiz show scandals in the 1950s. When does creative control over programming yield to paid sponsorship and financing dollars or Euros (or British Pound Sterling). At what point does a program or movie become an infomercial or advercast? Are there vulnerable groups (e.g., children) that might not distinguish so readily between advertising and programming and at what point is that deceptive? What does SAG say about their actors being de facto appearing to endorse a product or brand inserted into their scenes and programs? If an actress is under contract with a cosmetic brand exclusively and a movie scene requires her to use a different brand—actionable? When the trailer with that clip airs on broadcast television—problem? Witness the following quote from Jonathan Adelstein, FCC Commissioner: “Now, products have even seeped into plot lines. Soap operas have woven cosmetic lines into their tales of who-did-what-with-who, while “The Apprentice” sounds more and more like an hour-long infomercial for the latest corporate sponsors.”
Trademark issues, endorsement and competitive/ambush marketing issues, free speech, freedom of expression, adequacy of disclosures, misleading or deceptive advertising—the list of potential issues is growing as the balance between creative control and commercial reality infect the entertainment industry. At one extreme is the traditional product placement in which an advertiser pays a fee for the hopes that the scene with its product doesn’t get cut and wind up on the editing room floor. At the other extreme is a placement fee and promotional campaign that is so integrally tied with the plot and the program that the two are indistinguishable—think “The Apprentice” or “Home Makeover.”
The deals are becoming more complex, and more fraught with potential legal and regulatory issues, and the stakes are higher. Need help? Contact Doug Wood or me—we would be happy to help.