Talent quest: Pip Mayne on why anachronistic talent contracts need to evolve

Talent contracts—and how they best work in today’s highly fragmented and rapidly evolving media market—have become an increasingly complex and contested issue.

Talent agents, talent, brands and producers have found that with the advent of digital media there is disagreement around how long, and where, content featuring talent should be shown, and at what price. 

Unlike the days when talent content was used across a limited number of platforms such as television and radio, successful campaigns can now spread across a myriad of online platforms at a lightning quick rate and receive unanticipated and uncontrolled exposure. But a consensus within the industry on how this grey area is best resolved has not yet been reached.

Over the past two years, senior agency producers, talent agents and Actors Equity representatives have made an attempt to address this situation and work towards a standardised process that takes the interests of all parties into account. 

Following an extended period of discussion, revisions were made to the existing Pre Casting Brief (PCB) in September 2012 that outlined an agreed process to reach the Total Performance Fee (TPF), for a set level of talent exposure.

The revised PCB was designed to include and/or option all possible channel usage for pre-negotiated contracts that span up to, normally, a 12 month period, with right to rollover for 2nd and 3rd terms (with three and six month options).

Included now in the TPF is use of material On Demand and the ability to view material as ‘click to view’ on 1 x home page, 1 x YouTube home page and 1 x Facebook home page for the client, agency and production company as well as additional online activity such as the use of TVCs to promote agency work on industry platforms. This new PCB has since been used successfully by a number of senior industry professionals within market.

While the PCB is being used as a starting point, it is still important to treat each and every job as standalone, due to clients’ differing objectives and budgets.

With talent fees in most cases not increasing, but a recurrent requirement for use of talent content across multiple platforms, I believe what we have put forward is the best possible way to manage negotiations for all involved.

An agency producer’s job is to represent the interests of the clients and to achieve what is the best and most flexible outcome. The revised PCB is an excellent check-list for producers to share with both suits and clients when briefing on campaign expectations. 

Managing the contracting of talent, while at the same time ensuring the talent is offering value to a client that is of a reasonable level for the money paid for their services, is a careful balancing act.

Clients looking for cheaper talent who don’t use traditional casting channels and go to the street encounter a raft of risks that can seriously backfire. Clients could, for example, end up with someone with a criminal conviction featuring in their TVC.

The PCB document does not claim to solve all problems related to talent contracts, and there are still some sticking points that need to be ironed out. Historical housing of client content, which exists outside of talents’ initially contracted terms, in particular remains an issue.

The industry also needs to be mindful that an ongoing association with a brand can impact on talents’ ability to work in a particular market, which is why talent agents are not keen on work existing on websites after its out of contracted period. 

Industry bodies and concerned parties, such as agencies and producers, are yet to agree on a way forward and at this point in time, the issue remains unresolved. 

  • Pip Mayne is head of content at DraftFCB.
  • This story originally appeared in the July/August edition of NZ Marketing

About Author

Comments are closed.