Actors, Writers Unions Protest at Madison and Vine

SAG, WGA Want Share of Cash From Integration Deals

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Not everyone's a big fan of branded entertainment. Just ask Connie Stevens, Elliott Gould and Kent McCord.

The three actors were among 100 protesters picketing outside the Beverly Hills Hotel last week at Advertising Age's Madison + Vine conference. The Screen Actors Guild and the Writers Guild of America, whose members have crashed a number of industry gatherings over the past months, have asked for a voluntary code of conduct on brand integrations. Their leadership maintains writers, actors and others in the creative community deserve a voice in how or if products are woven into entertainment, and they are asking to share in the advertiser money for such deals. "We deserve to be consulted because we have separate contracts for commercials and separate contracts for films and TV," Mr. Gould said.

It's a situation of major concern for the Association of National Advertisers and the American Association of Advertising Agencies, who this week are issuing a bulletin to members urging them to review production schedules in case the guilds go on strike later this year.

"There is no logic to the current ways actors are paid," said Doug Wood, general counsel to the ANA at the ANA Agency Relations Forum last week in Santa Monica, Calif.

Mr. Wood said the current system was formulated in the 1950s and that the advent of product placement and the digital era have made both parties realize that the contract needs a major overhaul.

Mr. Wood said both the union and the industry were hurt by the last strike when a number of productions-so called runaway productions-moved outside the U.S. The level of union cooperation, and how "tense and difficult" the situation will become, is unknown, he said.

According to WGA West President Patric Verrone, studios, production companies and networks have refused to discuss the matter with the unions. "We've expanded our campaign, but we can't seem to get our employers to talk to us," Mr. Verrone said. The unions are preparing a complaint letter for the Federal Communications Commission, he said, asking that product integrations be more fully disclosed to viewers.

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