The Screen Actors Guild–American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA) Commercials Contract, which governs wages and benefits for talent appearing in commercial advertising productions, was renegotiated in April 2013, resulting in a Memorandum of Agreement that will be operative for three years. There are many implications of the new provisions of the Memorandum of Agreement for signatory advertising agencies and advertisers, including continuing developments in how both sides regard the use of talent in digital content productions. This series of six articles will discuss the new provisions as well as some pre-existing rules and provide advertisers and their advertising agencies with a practical perspective on dealing with these issues. Future articles will consider the definition of an Internet/new media “Commercial,” pension and health allocation issues involving multi-service endorsement contracts, the rules around the use of union vocal performances in musical works, and how advertisers and agencies can respond when they have received a claim from the union. Key among the latest developments, and the subject of this article, is how commercial producers can utilize several new exemptions for real people appearing in commercials intended for use in digital media.
Advertising content has followed one recent trend in entertainment content – featuring real people in non-staged settings, rather than scripted talent. Traditionally, advertisers and agencies were required under the SAG-AFTRA Commercials Contract to treat “real people” appearing in commercials in the same manner as talent cast and engaged by them, requiring, at a minimum, the making scale payments to those people. Now, at least for the Internet and new media, and on an experimental waiver basis, there is an exemption for real people who appear in commercials.