SAG-AFTRA will hold a mock “bake sale” next week outside the New York offices of Bartle Bogle Hegarty to raise money for the ad agency “because they claim they can’t afford union talent.”
Thursday’s event will be the second mass protest since the 160,000-member union went on strike against BBH last month after the ad agency said it was no longer a signatory to the union’s contract. On September 27, nearly a thousand boisterous SAG-AFTRA members picketed the ad agency’s L.A. offices. The strike is part of its ongoing efforts to combat nonunion commercial production.
“Because this global ad agency says it can no longer pay actors a fair wage or ensure safe working conditions, we’re helping them out with a BBH Bake Sale,” SAG-AFTRA president Gabrielle Carteris told her members today.
“Despite being signed to the SAG-AFTRA Commercials Contracts for almost 20 years,” she told the membership, “they now claim our union agreement doesn’t apply to them – they want to pick and choose as they please. They are attempting to abandon the agreement and the performers who have worked with them under this contract for two decades. Walking out on working performers is unacceptable and we will not back down. Thousands of members are making their voices heard around the country. We invite you to join us in NY for an action on Thursday, Nov. 1.”
BBH had been signed to SAG-AFTRA’s Commercials Contracts since 1999 but says it decided not to renew its signatory status. “We do not expect the strike to have any noticeable impact on our company or any ongoing client work, especially as we have been a non-signatory to the SAG-AFTRA contract since November 2017,” the ad agency said last month. “We are hired to operate in the best interests of our clients, and part of that is being able to deliver the greatest level of flexibility and value for the work we do. We are simply looking to level the playing field for all of us. The current contract was put in place nearly 20 years ago, when the Internet was in its infancy and the advertising world was a vastly different place, with vastly different economics. The cutting-edge work we do at BBH US across all mediums is not well-served by a contract that was designed for a traditional media landscape. The need for speed, agility, and greater efficiencies in how we produce work has become increasingly important in today’s market. Many of our peer agencies are not signatories, making it hard to compete sustainably in a way that benefits our clients.”
Union leaders responded by saying that “if BBH had been paying attention, they would know SAG-AFTRA negotiated the Social Media Waiver into the contract two years ago. Even more noteworthy, the union launched the popular Low Budget Digital Waiver a year ago. These and other changes allow significant flexibility in the creation of social media and digital ads. The industry loves them. These changes have helped top agencies successfully adapt to an evolving ad industry.”