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ACTRA, advertisers sign new contract for new age

New deal changes how commercial actors are paid and acknowledges digital shift

The ad industry has ratified a new three-year deal with the actors’ union ACTRA that will change the way actors in commercials are paid and acknowledges the shift toward digital channels and the use of “real people,” rather than professional actors, in ads.

Originally announced at the end of last month, the new three-year agreement is between the Alliance of Canadian Cinema, Television and Radio Artists, which represents 22,000 English-language actors, stunt performers, comedians and others, and ad industry representatives the Association of Canadian Advertisers (ACA) and the Institute of Communication Agencies (ICA).

“This is a solid agreement of which ACTRA members can be proud,” Stephen Waddell, ACTRA’s chief negotiator on the deal and national executive director, said in a release. “ACTRA’s bargaining team worked hard to improve wages and working conditions for performers while reflecting the realities of the industry, and we succeeded in making real gains.”

Ratified on Tuesday, the National Commercial Agreement will change the rules governing how advertisers are required to pay for talent in their ads. Among the changes for advertisers is the fact that the deal gives firms more freedom around the use of non-actors in ads – in those that require authentic-seeming background crowds or that try to capture street-level suprise, for example. The change was an acknowledgment that “reality” isn’t fading away anytime soon in advertising – and that it’s better to have advertisers hire within the union rather than going around it due to stringent rules.

“We were worried that if we don’t provide these easements, that major brands will produce commercials non-union,” said Waddell in an interview with The Globe and Mail. “That’s a big give, on our part…We’ve got reality television, now we’ve got reality commercials.”

The deal also won actors higher pay for appearances in new media commercials – a 6% pay increase (2% increase per year over the three-year term) – and regards shooting such ads as a full day’s work. Companies must now pay actors for a minimum full eight-hour day for online ads, just as they must for TV ads.

That’s a nod toward the enormous growth of online advertising as a percentage of all video commercials, and the higher complexity and production values of digital as expanding bandwidths allow higher-quality videos on platforms such as YouTube to become the norm.

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