ACTRA calls Labatt offside for Bud’s ‘Flash Fans’

February 13, 2012  |  Jeromy Lloyd  |  Comments

ACTRA Toronto, the largest regional arm of Canada’s actors’ union, is calling out Labatt for its recent “Flash Fans” ad, which the union said “side-stepped” its National Commercial Agreement (NCA) and hired actors at non-union wages.

“Flash Fans,” which aired during the Canadian broadcast of the Super Bowl, employed hundreds of people (ACTRA claims as many as 600) to serve as a flash mob at a pick-up hockey game. The video shows unsuspecting amateur hockey players surprised as their arena fills with fans, mascots and a lot of branding for Budweiser – the Labatt brand behind the stunt.

The spot was created by New York agency Anomaly, which works on the Canadian Budweiser account. Being an American agency, Anomaly is not an NCA signatory and thus did not pay the spot’s performers union wages.

“It’s an embarrassing day for Labatt when they’re caught exploiting everyday folks in their multi-million dollar television ads,” said Heather Allin, ACTRA Toronto president, in a release issued Feb. 10. “We are shocked that Labatt, with whom we have a long-standing business relationship, would undermine their agreement and hire workers for much less than industry-standard pay.”

ACTRA said that under the terms of NCA, each performer in the spot, including the unsuspecting hockey players, should have earned union wages at various levels. Anomaly reportedly recruited its army of extras for $150 apiece. (According to ACTRA, Anomaly has created several union-compliant commercials over the past year, but in the case of “Flash Fans,” the agency “flouted the agreement.”)

Labatt responded Monday with a statement.

As anyone who has seen Budweiser’s ‘Flash Fans’ commercial will know, it is much more the filming of a spontaneous event rather than a traditional, scripted television advertisement. Critical to this creative was using real life players and fans who could authentically capture the spirit of a live game and deliver on spontaneity and surprise. We could not have achieved what we intended and hoped for without the element of surprise and Anomaly, Budweiser’s global agency of record, developed a plan that we agreed to and that succeeded. Everyone who participated in the filming enjoyed it and readily agreed to be part of the final product.

“Flash Fans” was only broadcast in Canada during the Super Bowl, but has built buzz in the U.S. as well. It has received more than 3.4 million views on YouTube since being posted Feb. 1.

ACTRA negotiates the terms of the NCA with the Institute of Communication Agencies, which represents ad agencies and the Association of Canadian Advertisers, of which Labatt is a member.

For more on ACTRA’s relationship with Canadian agencies and Anomaly’s upcoming launch in Toronto, pick up the March 12 issue of Marketing.

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