Ad World Looks to Revamp Actor-Payment Methods

New Terms With Talent Unions Needed as iPods, Cellphones Enter Ad Arena

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- As its contract with the actors unions nears expiration, the ad industry has launched a search for an independent consultant to help develop new compensation models for actors whose work in TV and radio is also used on mobile phones and other growing media channels.

The question of compensation is expected to be a sticking point between the two sides, whose contract expires Oct. 29.

While insiders said it's unlikely that advertisers will pay talent for each media channel, both sides said they are eager to find a fairer method that reflects a media world that changed since the commercial guidelines were set a half-century ago.

To that end, the industry's negotiating committee said it has issued a request for qualifications to identify consultants with backgrounds in TV, radio and labor relations to come up with alternative compensation plans that could be used this fall in the industry's collective-bargaining process with the Screen Actors Guild and American Federation of Television and Radio Artists.

Any proposals that are developed are not meant to be binding, but instead are to be presented as possible alternatives.

"The payment structures in the current collective-bargaining agreement with SAG/AFTRA were originally developed to meet the needs and problems of the early 1950s," said Douglas Wood, the lead negotiator for the Joint Policy Committee on Broadcast Talent Union Relations, a body composed of appointees from American Association of Advertising Agencies and the Association of National Advertisers.

"We need a new, equitable approach to talent payment-one that recognizes that consumers are viewing commercials on cellphones and iPods, and that advertisers are using digital editing to customize messages for narrow audiences."

SAG says it's on board
SAG issued a statement acknowledging its interest in a joint study on compensation. "The truth is that talent costs are generally less than 2% of the industry's media costs," it read. "So it goes without saying that we share the industry's commitment to ensuring that actors are fairly compensated."

In addition to the media-fragmentation issue, the talent unions have also expressed concern over the creative community being left out of discussions of brand integration into programming, an increasingly popular marketing practice that's dominated by advertisers, agencies, producers and media sellers.

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