By Robert Wagner, Technologist, Author, and Podcaster
The entertainment industry is facing a seismic disruption as the Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (SAG-AFTRA) launches a historic strike. With over 160,000 members, including actors, voice-over artists, and other performers, the strike is poised to have significant ramifications across various media sectors. One area that will undoubtedly feel the impact is advertising. Let's explore how the SAG-AFTRA strike is likely to affect the advertising industry and what measures advertisers might take to navigate this challenging landscape.
Stalled Productions and Creative Delays
The most immediate impact of the SAG-AFTRA strike on advertising will be the halt of ongoing productions and the delay in creating new campaigns. As actors and performers participate in the strike, many commercial shoots and voice-over recording sessions could come to a standstill. Advertisers who rely heavily on live-action ads featuring SAG-AFTRA talent may experience delays in launching their campaigns, potentially affecting product launches and marketing timelines.
Shift to Non-Union Talent – Cautiously
In response to the strike, advertisers may turn to non-union talent as a temporary solution to maintain their ad production schedules. This shift could provide opportunities for emerging actors and voice-over artists outside of SAG-AFTRA, but it may also impact the quality and authenticity of the advertising content. Non-union talent may not have the same level of experience or recognition, and advertisers must carefully assess the trade-offs when selecting alternative performers.
Say Hello to Mr. Robot – We're Going to See an Increase in Voice-Over Automation
Voice-over talent plays a crucial role in commercials, but with the strike limiting the availability of SAG-AFTRA voice actors, advertisers may explore voice-over automation solutions. Text-to-speech technology and AI-generated voices are becoming more sophisticated, offering a viable alternative for certain types of ads. However, the challenge lies in delivering natural and emotive performances that resonate with the target audience.
Shifting Advertising Budgets – More Than Usual
The uncertainty caused by the SAG-AFTRA strike may prompt advertisers to reassess their advertising budgets and reallocate resources. Brands heavily reliant on TV commercials or radio spots featuring union talent might diversify their strategies to explore digital advertising, influencer marketing, or user-generated content campaigns. This shift could lead to an increased focus on social media platforms and other non-traditional advertising channels.
Negotiation of Usage Fees
One of the core issues driving the SAG-AFTRA strike is the dispute over fair compensation and residuals for performers in the digital age. As advertisers continue to embrace online and streaming platforms, the negotiation of usage fees for ad content featuring SAG-AFTRA talent becomes even more critical. Brands and production companies will need to engage in open dialogue with the union to find mutually agreeable solutions that address the changing media landscape.
Brand Perception: Be On the Right Side of History
The SAG-AFTRA strike may have implications for brand perception, particularly for companies whose commercials are associated with SAG-AFTRA talent. Consumers are increasingly conscious of social and labor issues, and public sentiment could sway in favor of or against brands depending on their stance on supporting actors and performers. Advertisers must be cautious in their messaging and public relations efforts during this time to avoid any negative fallout.
What Once Was Old is New Again
To mitigate the effects of the strike, advertisers may explore the use of existing content and archival material featuring non-SAG-AFTRA talent. Repurposing past successful campaigns or investing in high-quality animation and motion graphics can provide a stopgap solution for advertisers while they wait for the strike to resolve.
Tread Carefully; Reputations Are at Stake
The SAG-AFTRA strike represents a pivotal moment in the entertainment industry, with far-reaching implications for advertisers. From delayed productions to potential budget shifts and the exploration of alternative talent sources, advertisers must be prepared to adapt their strategies to navigate this challenging landscape. Building strong relationships with talent agencies, exploring innovative production methods, and prioritizing ethical practices in the negotiation of talent compensation will be essential for advertisers to weather the impact of the strike successfully. Ultimately, how brands respond during this critical time will not only affect their advertising efforts but also shape their reputation among consumers and stakeholders.