I’ve been asked to cover some basic information about commercials. Here are some common terms, types of commercials, and a little myth-busting, as well as an invitation to another wonderful SAG event regarding commercials. Enjoy!

Important Commercial Terms:

There are many wonderful resources for industry terminology in books and online. These are some of the most commonly-used terms necessary for an aspiring commercial actor’s vocabulary.

Avail: a sign that you are close to a commercial booking. How close? That depends. Historically, only three or four actors are to be placed “on avail” for a commercial (meaning it’s down to you and a couple of other actors). Sadly, more actors than ever are being put on avail for each job and many actors ask that they not be alerted to avails by their agents and managers, preferring instead to hear only about the bookings.

Buyout: a purchase of your future rights (by flat fee) for the commercial acting gig, resulting in no residuals.

Conflict: a term reflecting the fact that you have done a commercial for one product, service, or company which would prevent you from doing another commercial for a similar or competing product, service, or company during the term of the conflict.

Conflicts Available Upon Request/No Current Conflicts: phrases commonly on an actor’s theatrical resume indicating that any commercial conflicts can be provided in a list or that no current conflicts exist, respectively.

Holding Fee: a payment to keep you “held” for a commercial that has run one cycle, so that they may run it again. This extends the amount of time you have that Conflict airing.

Residuals: payments over-and-above the session fees made to the actor every commercial cycle (or 13 weeks).

Types of Commercials:

While students of advertising know there are dozens of types of commercials from the ad-agency’s point of view — based on everything from the amount of jargon used to the type of spokesperson employed (authority figure, celebrity, “real people” type) and from the amount of facts and figures used to tactics of emotion (fear of what happens if the product isn’t used, need to be on the bandwagon, desire to please) — for actors, there are two far more basic types of commercials. Within these types of commercials, there are the variables of style (humorous, realistic, testimonial, expert, slice-of-life, self-improvement, etc.). That list is far from exhaustive and the topic is better served for a commercial class environment. If you’ve never taken an on-camera commercial audition technique class and intend to compete in the commercial market, you must get into a class!

Narrative: commercials with a storyline, with a product or service being sold as a part of the storyline, rather than that product or service being the primary focus of the ad.

Spokesperson-driven: commercials with an actor speaking directly to the camera, addressing the viewing audience, speaking about the product or service being offered. Some spokesperson-driven segments are included as a part of narrative commercials.

True or False:

Myths are big business in the commercial acting community. The tales of hot conversations in audition waiting rooms are legendary. When in doubt, contact SAG for the last word.

True or False? I can make $100,000 on a big, popular, SAG National commercial. False. Most advertisers now know how to manipulate the system so that their ads get national airtime without costing them a (Class A Network-level) bundle. By buying time on Cable by geographical units (which allows for much more targeted-marketing) and adding the occasional Wildspot buy, advertisers are able to “have a 13-week National” while only paying principal talent around $5000 or $6000. That’s session fee ($600 to $1000) plus Cable buy ($2500) plus Wildspot (up to $2500). Non-union commercials pay even less, usually under $1000 for a straight buy-out.

True or False? SAG will collect overtime audition pay on my behalf. True. Many actors worry about “blowing the whistle” on casting sessions that run long, despite the fact that the SAG Contract Department assures actors they will remain anonymous, should they pursue payment for overtime auditions. According to the SAG Contract Corner, principal performers are entitled to payment for any time beyond an hour spent at a commercial audition (calculated from the sign-in or appointment time, whichever is later). SAG will pursue payment for all SAG members in this situation, not just the actor who reported the overtime to SAG.

True or False? I can write “on file” in the blank for my SAG ID number on the sign-in sheet. True, you can, but according to SAG, you need to write in your SAG ID number if you are to expect payment for overtime at commercial auditions. They generally will not pursue overtime audition payments on behalf of actors whose SAG ID numbers are listed as “on file” on commercial sign-in sheets. Additionally, SAG advises all actors to sign in and out at commercial casting sessions, to document the time spent there.

True or False? I do not need to keep up with where and when my commercials are airing. True, you don’t have to keep up, but you certainly should. There will be mistakes made. There will be misreporting of markets in which your ads air. There will always be proverbial cracks for details to slip right through. So, get used to tracking your commercials by using services like those listed below or (better yet) employing the help of friends and family across the country. Let them know what you were wearing, what you were doing, and anything else they should be on the lookout for, in trying to catch your commercial. Then, keep a list of every “report” you get of an appearance, including time, date, and station on which the ad aired. It’s your right and your responsibility.

Commercial tracking and resource sites: Clipland.com, Monitoring.com, NielsenMedia.com.

In Closing:

Still looking for information on commercial work? I encourage you to become a part of the SAG Foundation and take part in their wonderful LifeRaft series. In fact, on Tuesday, 25 January 2005, they will present a seminar called Commercial 101 at the SAG office in Los Angeles. From the press release:

Do you want to empower yourself and know how you should be paid for working in a commercial? Do you want to learn about when overtime kicks in? Or when meal breaks should be called? What about learning an easy way to understand the commercial residual schedule so you determine whether the amount in your check is proper? Do you know how the SAG rules can help you during a commercial audition? Find out these tips and more by attending our Commercials 101 Workshop.

I strongly recommend that you take advantage of this wonderful series from the SAG Foundation and the LifeRaft series. And if you can’t make it this week, get on their mailing list for future opportunities. Stay informed! It’s your job.

Wanna be sure your tools *and* your mindset are in peak form? Let us get you in gear with some FREE training right now!

Rock ON!

Bonnie Gillespie autographed the internet

Bonnie Gillespie is living her dreams by helping others figure out how to live theirs. Wanna work with Bon? Start here. Thanks!

Originally published by Actors Access at http://more.showfax.com/columns/avoice/archives/000169.html. Please support the many wonderful resources provided by the Breakdown Services family. This posting is the author’s personal archive.

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  1. Sonya English September 29, 2014 at 3:04 pm

    Thank you for a great article! Do you have links that are active today where actors can check commercial airings? Is ispottv a reliable source?

  2. Bonnie Gillespie October 18, 2014 at 9:06 pm

    Hiya Sonya. iSpot.tv is pretty dang good. My absolute LATEST updates on the best ways to track (and target) for commercial bookings is here: https://tinyurl.com/ShopSMFA (or… it will be by November 1st; we just ran it as a subscription of SMFA Essentials, and we wait a couple of months before offering subscription items up at the store).

    Another place to check, in the meantime, is here: http://more.showfax.com/columns/avoice/archives/001841.html

    Enjoy! 😀


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