EXCLUSIVE: The SAG-AFTRA national board of directors will meet Saturday to review the union’s proposals for a new commercials contract that generates more than $1 billion for its members, but has been in decline in recent years. The current contract expires March 31, and the ad industry is already gearing up for a possible strike.
“More members work under our commercials contract than any other,” said J.K. Simmons, the Oscar winner and star of numerous Farmers Insurance ads, in a new video posted on the union’s website to promote its ongoing Ads Go Union campaign. “Over the last few years, our industry has experienced a decline in union commercial work. When advertisers pick and choose when they want to produce under a union contract, it becomes harder for our brothers and sisters to earn a living, pay their bills, feed their families. Keeping commercial work under a fair union contract is vital to the health and survival of this community and our union.”
One example of the growing number of non-union ads is a recent casting notice seeking actors for a non-union commercial for Target, the giant retail chain, which will be shooting for three days later this month. The casting notice says producers are looking for actors who are “Real, authentic, energetic and full of personality. Due to the nature of our quick vignettes, we’re looking for believable performances and expressive faces. We are looking for diversity in ALL ways — but all MUST have that special sparkle and personality.” The gig pays a $500 session fee and a $3,000 buyout for adults. Kids only get a $1,500 buyout – all well below the union’s going rate.
Advertisers and ad agencies that use union actors for commercials are already experiencing strike jitters.
“The industry remains optimistic that we will have a successful conclusion to these negotiations without disruption,” the ad industry’s bargaining arm, the Joint Policy Committee, says on its website. “However, in order to provide for prudent production planning prior to the expiration of these contracts, signatory employers, both agencies and advertisers, are advised to review and consider” various options and recommendations to mitigate the impact of a strike.
Stacy Marcus, the JPC’s chief negotiator, has urged new productions to “consider re-scheduling production planned for April 1, 2019, through June 2019 to a date well prior to March 31, 2019. This is of particular concern if you are planning production for the rollout of a new campaign or are planning a celebrity production.”