UPDATED with BBH statement: SAG-AFTRA has called a strike against Bartle Bogle Hegarty, claiming that the ad agency is “illegally attempting to abandon its union contract.” Guild members are prohibited from accepting new work with BBH, but those currently working on projects with the agency can continue to do so.
A strike authorization was approved unanimously by the guild’s national board of directors.
“The integrity of good business is based upon parties adhering to their mutual contracts,” said SAG-AFTRA president Gabrielle Carteris. “BBH’s decision to abandon their commitment and responsibilities to our collective bargaining agreement by shooting non-union is not only unethical, it undermines a working actor’s right to fair wages, health care and on-set safety. These actions are unacceptable, and we will take a stand.”
Said a BBH spokesman: “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. BBH remains focused on delivering high quality and innovative work to our clients. We also continue to value highly the creative talent we work with and remain committed to fair wages and working conditions.”
SAG-AFTRA National Executive Director David White said that, “There is nothing more sacred to our members than our collective bargaining agreements. They ensure fair pay and protections that enable performers to make a living wage and care for their families. BBH is now attempting to walk out on our agreement and ignore their obligations. This strike will deny BBH access to our talented actors who perform in commercials. We ask that members stand together and refuse all work for this company.”
BBH, a global agency with U.S. offices in New York and Los Angeles, had been signed to SAG-AFTRA’s Commercials Contracts since 1999 but announced earlier this month that it had decided not to renew its signatory status.
“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,” the ad agency said in a statement on September 6. “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.”
BBH is owned by Publicis Groupe, a multinational communications and marketing company that owns several ad agencies, some of which are signed to the SAG-AFTRA commercials contracts, including Saatchi & Saatchi and Leo Burnett.
“The strike is called against BBH only,” the union noted, “therefore members can work for other signatory Publicis Groupe ad agencies – or any other agency signed to the SAG-AFTRA Commercials Contracts – during the strike.”