SAG-AFTRA and the ad industry are heading toward a potentially rocky start for launching their standard digital identifier — dubbed Ad-ID — mandated for ads using union members on March 31.
Part of the industry has been reluctant to adapt the new technology, setting up a possible clash with SAG-AFTRA. The union has been measured in its response, but has already warned it’s willing to file grievances and seek arbitration.
“We’re optimistic that through dialog and with the help of management and of Ad-ID itself, we can address employers’ concerns — many of which are premised on myths and misinformation,” a union spokesperson said. “Of course, the ultimate remedy is grievance and arbitration, but we hope to avoid that by encouraging advertisers to voluntarily comply. It’s in the industry’s best interest and really helps everyone.”
The basic premise of Ad-ID is to use a single system to track performers’ compensation, which is based on how many times and where an ad airs. SAG-AFTRA covers about $1 billion annually in performer compensation.
The Ad-ID mark, which is similar to the Universal Product Code for packaged goods, tracks when and where a commercial is broadcast. It was developed by the two signatories to the SAG-AFTRA commercials contract: the American Association of Advertising Agencies and the Association of National Advertisers.
Last April, the union agreed to a three-year deal with the proviso that Ad-ID be included in all commercials as of March 31 — giving the ad industry a one-year grace period to implement the identifier. But the current compliance rate is only about 65%, admits Bob Liodice, president and CEO of the ANA and CEO of Ad-ID.
On March 31, Ad-ID will report which advertisers, agencies and vendors are not creating codes in Ad-ID.
“I think that some don’t know that it’s mandatory,” Liodice told Variety. “People are always reluctant to change. Additionally, there’s so much going on in advertising that people don’t realize that this is mandatory.”
Liodice had told Variety last April he was determined to get 100% of the ad industry to use Ad-ID by the deadline. He said that the union has given a firm commitment that it intends to assure compliance.
“They are obviously not revealing what they specifically have plans to do – and that makes sense,” he added. “It gives them flexibility to react to the entire situation or to pursue compliance on a company by company basis – or some combination of both. I am sure that they want to see where everything nets out on March 31 before taking any specific action.”
SAG-AFTRA also indicated that it will simply go on using other sources to track commercials that don’t have Ad-ID.
“We believe that adoption of a universal tracking code for commercials will benefit the entire industry including advertisers and SAG-AFTRA,” the union spokesperson said. “We will be studying the AD-ID compliance process and will take steps to help ensure that all advertisers can be in compliance with the requirements.”
The master contract also provides that both sides will continue to study a structural revamp of the compensation system based on gross rating points rather than the traditional pay-per-play method — a change that the industry has been seeking since 2009.