What's ahead after the actors strike settlement

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So the much publicized, Elizabeth Hurley-bashing Screen Actors Guild/American Federation of Television & Radio Artists strike against the advertising industry appears to be over. But what happens next?

Of course, many assume we will return to the traditional course of business. Actors will go back to work, casting agents will flip through their head sheets, talent agents will rehire their laid-off staff and U.S. film production and post-production houses will flourish. Business as usual.

Right?

Wrong. A deeper current ran beneath the negotiations between the actors unions and the industry -- one the press and the negotiating team for the industry either failed to acknowledge or merely dismissed. It is simply that, years before the strike, some of the best and brightest blue-chip U.S. clients learned how to beat the residuals game with no compromise in production quality or values, and no loss in the most important value of all -- consumer response.

UNDER DIRECTORS' EYES

And, of most interest, this was accomplished under the experienced eyes of some of the biggest directorial names in the business (a clear violation of the agreement with their union, the Directors Guild of America).

As the actors strike continued, this trend accelerated dramatically, creating a climate where clients, of necessity, were forced to explore this new frontier. As a result, little pressure to settle was placed on the negotiating team by the advertisers.

In fact, there was a reverse effect. The strength of the U.S. dollar in Australia, Canada, Latin America, New Zealand and even Europe heightened the efficiency of production outside the U.S., proving once again we are a creative business. One only has to pay a visit to one city, Vancouver, to confirm its legitimate status as a premier production capital.

The actors unions now risk directors -- with a new experience base and confidence in discovering fresh talent -- maximizing production efficiency and stockpiling locations that run the gamut from global to just around the corner.

This spring, preparation of ads to run in the Olympic Games was the optimal pressure point for strikers. Guess what? Every advertiser produced ads without missing an airdate. Does anyone really believe the industry suffered? Few, if any!

The only advertisers (and agents) that truly suffered a setback were those with "over-scale talent." Those performers, in the end, will derive no additional benefit from the settlement either way.

TAKING STOCK

So where do we stand today?

Union actors soon will be back to work and again available for cattle calls and bookings. But what have they really gained? Advertisers have learned too well the lessons of "buying out" talent, the efficiency of international production costs and the upside of a strong U.S. dollar.

With businesses to run and the pressures of Wall Street on "the bottom line," it's a safe prediction that many advertisers will not return to their traditional production procedures prior to the strike. SAG/AFTRA demands and the tactics employed to end this strike have left a bad taste in the mouths of many.

Global multinational advertisers have a broader responsibility to their shareholders than to spend sometimes hundreds of thousands of dollars on "unnecessary" residuals. Remember that more than 50% of the revenues from Dow Jones industrial average corporations come from outside the U.S.

SAG/AFTRA has left the barn door open. Now the hardest work of all must begin -- to reprove the value of its members' talents.

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