Talent Negotiation

How Production Transparency Can Impact Your Budget

Building from last week’s “Cliffs Notes” on production transparency, this week we take a look at case studies and examples of how this very topic can directly impact your budget.

Whether it’s internal or external, having a resource for production expertise can lead to real savings for advertisers.

Below are a few real-world examples of how a lack of transparency can lead to increased costs:


Here in the United States, bids for TVC/video production shooting and post production are often on the Association of Independent Commercial Producers (AICP) and Association of Independent Creative Editors (AICE) forms. However, the scope of work for digital, photography and experiential projects are often in different formats with varying levels of detail and specifications. This makes it extremely difficult to compare across bids submitted. A best practice is for the advertiser to utilize a standardized template with all the required specs and appropriate level of detail (similar to what is in practice for TV and video). This allows for a smooth pre-bid meeting and the ability to make smart business decisions regarding costs.

Related Party Transactions with Bidding:

The ANA Production Transparency Study noted cases where related party transactions were not disclosed leading to various competitive bidding issues. In a recent project, a freelance producer who also owned a production company wanted that company to submit a bid for the project. In this instance, since an external production consultant was involved, the relationship was disclosed and bids from all production companies were received and evaluated by a 3rd party resource. Can you imagine what would’ve happened if the production consultant hadn’t required proper disclosures before bidding began?

Bid Review

During a recent bid review, a line listed “equipment” with an associated dollar figure. When asked for clarification, the specific items (grip, lighting, back drop, gels, etc.) with prices were provided and the total “equipment” amount came down several thousand dollars.

Overage Approvals

A brand director on a commercial shoot was asked by the agency to approve an overage on set due to some overtime requirements. The brand director “signed off” not really paying attention to the amount, authorizing the over time required in the amount of $60,000. When the production consultant analyzed the charges the next day and looked at the detail requirements for the two hours, the overage amount should have been $16,000. Having someone with production knowledge understanding the details and digging in really paid off in this situation!

Invoice Review

Why use your precious budget on things you shouldn’t be paying for? In today’s world of high turnover, short-staffed teams, and people who are stretched so thin, there’s a higher risk for error — which can impact your bottom line. Invoicing transparency issues aren’t necessarily intentional or malicious, but it’s critically important review all billing prior to payment to ensure you don’t fall victim to common issues, which include:

  • Number of individuals above guideline limits traveling to the shoot
  • Inappropriate class of airfare, upgrades, airline clubs, monthly fees, subscriptions, etc.
  • Miscellaneous non-billable expenses (items you can’t imagine!)
  • Non-transparent talent charges related to miscellaneous payments, member violations, fees, wardrobe, overtime, etc.
  • Charges to incorrect brands or projects (and yes, even incorrect clients)
  • Duplicate charges
  • Past due balances on invoices
  • Taxes charged on non-taxable items

NOTE: MRA has an entire team of people who review agency invoices and back-up documentation to ensure billing is 100% accurate. To learn more, click here to download an overview of our LineWatch® Invoice Monitoring process.

Purchase Order & Budget Management

When advertisers don’t have solid pre-bid and bid review processes in place, project estimates become inaccurate and one risk is having the purchase order open for a larger amount than needed. If the advertiser doesn’t have an individual or team closely managing open purchase orders and budgets (vs. actual expenses), significant amounts may be left on open purchase orders and when final billing is settled, there isn’t always enough time to utilize the available funds. Imagine if YOU were the client that found out too late an entire additional spot could have been produced for your campaign!

Join us next week as we provide steps for how to get started and make improvements to your production management practices.

Written in collaboration with Angela Saferite.

The New SAG Contract: 5 Things You Should Know

The current contract between the Screen Actors Guild and the Joint Policy committee of the ANA/AAAA which sets terms and conditions for all union talent appearing in broadcast advertising (TV, Cable, Internet, New Media) expires on March 31, 2016.  Negotiations are now underway for the new contract, which will run until March 31, 2019.  Here are 5 considerations to help you anticipate, participate and prepare for the changes to come.

  1. Contract Terms

The current contract terms will remain in force if the two sides are unable to reach a ratified agreement by March 31st.  However, any advertising produced after March 31st will retroactively be aligned to the new contract once it is ratified.  In other words, you will have to pay the difference in pay for session fees, holding fees and Pension & Health, assuming the new cost is higher.  Because of this, you may want to consider producing any currently approved or pending advertising prior to the March 31st end date to take advantage of what will most probably be more favorable terms of payment.

If, for any reason, you are considering rescinding your signatory status with either the Screen Actors Guild, or your authorization of the Joint Policy Committee (JPC) which binds you as a signatory, please understand that any commercials produced during the current contract period of 4/1/2013-3/31/2016 will still be bound by the terms of the current contract if you decide to continue their exhibition.

  1. Signatory Status

If you are unsure of your company’s status as a signatory, you can contact Kim Stevens, Director of Industry Relations of the JPC, at kstevens@jointpolicycommittee.org or (212) 549-0324.  Her mailing address is 599 Lexington Avenue, New York, NY 10022.  She will be able to determine if you are or are not a signatory.

Besides your company being a direct signatory, if your agency of record is a signatory (and most large agencies are) then any work they produce for you comes under the SAG contract.

  1. Off-Shore Productions

Production shot off-shore is exempt, but be aware, the contract forbids taking a commercial outside of the U.S. for the purpose of avoiding SAG payments.  Your reason must be for savings in the cost of production, or because it is a commercial to be used by multiple regions on the globe, or its essential location is a foreign country.  Contact us here at MRA for specific guidance in this matter.

  1. “Hot” Issues

The 2013 contract included some advantageous defining of what was covered and not covered by SAG in terms of contests and “man on the street” commercials, and was ratified after only 2 weeks or so of negotiation.  The anticipation for this year’s negotiation is for a more typically contentious collective bargaining process.  “Hot” issues include: new media, ad agencies using third party sources to utilize SAG talent while not signing the SAG contract themselves, and off shore production.

  1. MRA’s Promise

MRA stands at the ready to help you through this process, both in terms of planning, budgeting and getting your voice heard by the JPC if there are issues that are a priority for you.  Our newest consultant, Jerry Rice, was the vice chairman of the JPC from 2004-2015. He has been through 4 contract negotiations and brings special insight to this process.

As the negotiations progress we will update you on all the progress as well as any issues that might crop up, as your complete production partners.  It’s the MRA Way.

If you’re not yet a client of MRA, we’d like to learn about your business.  Give us a call at 513-354-3833 or email Stacey St. John at sstjohn@mraservices.com.