The ad industry and the Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists plan to negotiate successor agreements to the current Commercials Contract and Radio Recorded Commercials Contract, when talks begin in February on a new deal.
In the meantime, the union has taken an aggressive stance against the ad agency Droga5 in posts and tweets on Instagram and Twitter and ads in publications such as Variety and The Hollywood Reporter in which it alleges that the agency hires nonunion workers with union performers and pays them both nonunion wages. For example, one of the ads features the headline "Actors Wanted" along with the text "Must be cool with unfair pay, no benefits, exploitation. Contact Droga5 if interested." SAG-AFTRA also delivered a petition with about 8,000 signatures to the agency's headquarters requesting that it "stop undermining the industry standards that ensure commercial performers can earn a middle-class living."
The issue for the union: As a nonsignatory to the existing contracts, Droga5 allegedly pays union members nonunion wages when shooting nonunion work. In a statement to Ad Age, the agency denied the accusation that it exploits talent and stated: "Droga5 remains a non-signatory to the SAG commercials contract, enabling us to engage in non-union shoots when it is deemed appropriate. ... However, when managing SAG productions, we always use SAG performers, which include any commercials for SAG-signatory clients or featuring any SAG celebrity talent. In those instances, we abide by SAG rules and pay SAG wages across the board. We do not engage SAG performers in non-union productions."
SAG-AFTRA hasn't indicated whether its ad campaign will expand to include other nonsignatory agencies.
Why it matters: Tensions leading into negotiations are high and not just because of the ad campaign. The increasing use of digital content has led to disputes about whether a video on YouTube, for example, constitutes a commercial as defined by the union, thereby requiring the use of SAG-AFTRA actors and other requirements. The ad industry has taken its own steps to prepare, with the Joint Policy Committee of the Association of National Advertisers-American Association of Advertising Agencies sending out a survey to industry stakeholders to get a better sense of their issues and concerns.