SAG fees tumbling

Advertisers say July payments are off 96%

Advertisers, continuing their campaign to demoralize striking actors, have proclaimed that commercial session fees paid to Screen Actors Guild members dropped by 96% in July compared with a year ago.

“The only winners in this strike so far are non-union actors,” said Daniel Jaffe, exec VP of the Assn. of National Advertisers. “That’s a reality that everyone in the business knows. We want to get back work with SAG because it does not give us any pleasure to see members on the picket lines.”

Figures released by the ANA and the American Assn. of Advertising Agencies showed session fees –upfront payments excluding residuals — to SAG members during the July 3-28 period totaled $143,168, compared with $3.6 million in the same frame last year. Non-union actors saw their session fees hit $3.6 million last month, nearly 18 times higher than the $200,712 the previous July.

Feeling squeeze

“The bleeding will continue until SAG comes back to economic reality,” Jaffe said. He also pointed out that the strike, which enters its 96th day today with no negotiations scheduled, is creating a drain on the union’s health benefits program, although org officials insist the program remains financially viable.

SAG board member and VP Gary Epp said the figures show that union members are holding firm on their refusal to perform in non-union spots, partly because the upfront buyouts do not pay enough. Advertisers have demanded that SAG and the American Federation of Television & Radio Artists agree to eliminate residuals, which the unions insist amounts to a wage cut since the buyouts enable ads to be run an unlimited number of times.

“What the advertisers’ numbers tell you is that our membership is galvanized and that SAG will never agree to a rollback,” Epp said. “The actors who do ads know they can’t make a living on these terms. And I don’t believe these numbers will have any impact on our membership.”

ANA and AAAA, which negotiate with actors for over 800 advertisers and agencies, also claimed that July commercial production totaled 1,725 spots, or 85% of the total from July 1999. “The numbers speak for themselves,” said ad industry negotiator Ira Shepard. “The industry is continuing to operate effectively and efficiently.”

The advertisers based their figures on data obtained through Talent Partners, a Chicago-based independent firm providing payroll services for the ad industry. But Epp questioned the accuracy of the numbers, noting that the unions are demanding a monitoring system because of the industry’s inability to supply accurate information about the number of times a commercial runs.

Jocks in spots

The advertisers, in a status report on the 14-week strike, also claimed that “most sports celebrities” with contractual commitments are defying union leaders and performing struck work. However, only nine such violations have been disclosed so far, and Jaffe refused to announce other names.

Also Thursday, about 80 SAG and AFTRA members staged a protest at the Beverly Hilton, where the ANA was holding a Family Program Awards Luncheon.

Allison Janney, during the acceptance of an award for “The West Wing,” told the gathering that she supported the actors and that advertisers should move to end the strike. She also joined the picket line outside the hotel, as did Della Reese.

Union members in the Los Angeles area also demonstrated outside Universal Studios due to tapings of Honda and Texaco spots using non-union actors.

In New York, demonstrators hit a non-union shoot for Johnson & Johnson on Thursday and continued protests outside General Motors’ Manhattan headquarters over the auto giant’s taping of a Tiger Woods non-union ad last week.

Los Angeles union members plan to protest today outside a regional McDonald’s office in Woodland Hills over the fast-food giant’s refusal to shoot union ads.

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