Marketing Briefing: Actors join writers on strike, but can continue to commit to commercial shoots

This Marketing Briefing covers the latest in marketing for Digiday+ members and is distributed over email every Tuesday at 10 a.m. ET. More from the series →

Actors have joined writers on the picket lines. 

Last week, Sag-Aftra announced that it would be going on strike and marching with the Writers’ Guild of America as negotiations with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers — AKA Netflix, Amazon, Apple, Disney, Discovery-Warner, NBC Universal, Paramount and Sony — had broken down. 

Since the writers went on strike in early May, marketers and agency execs have been working with media partners on contingency plans as well as focusing on sports, live events and reality television for the near future. Initial hopes for the strike to be resolved quickly have diminished and marketers are recognizing the potential for not only the fall season to be impacted but that of the first quarter 2024. 

“The actors’ strike isn’t changing our approach,” said Stacey Stewart, U.S. chief marketplace officer for UM. “A lot of what we’re doing based on the writers’ strike remains true. We are approaching most contingency plans on a client-by-client basis. Some examples are shifting spend to sports, streaming and encouraging our clients to support responsible journalism.”

Stewart added that a “heavy mix of reality programming” is expected for the remainder of the year and likely the first quarter of 2024. “We are watching to see how these strikes impact releases and programming for entertainment clients, and if some of those dollars come out of the marketplace,” said Stewart. “We continue to hope for a fair resolution for all involved as quickly as possible.”

Marketers and agency execs say that while it continues to be a wait-and-see approach and that they expect to focus the bulk of investment through the fourth quarter on sports and reality, if there’s no new scripted content by the first quarter of 2024 it could be a concern.

Aside from ad spending ripple effects, marketers and agency execs noted that Sag-Aftra’s commercial contract is not impacted by the strike as it is separate from the TV/theatrical/streaming contract with the AMPTP. That means much of the work for actors when it comes to brand endorsements and commercial jobs should continue as usual. That said, location changes may be needed for some commercial shoots. 

“Clients should be advised to avoid scheduling shoots on studio lots or locations affiliated with studios so that talent isn’t forced to cross a picket line to shoot a commercial,” explained Mary Semling, svp of celebrity and influencer at The Marketing Arm, in a statement to clients navigating the Sag-Aftra strike.

Throughout the strike, actors will not be able to participate in public relations efforts to promote projects for studios. However, actors will be able to promote brand partnerships “provided there is no cross-reference promo of past, present or future film/TV/streaming projects,” wrote Semling.

Semling continued: “Given this, we will need to work even more closely with talent publicists during this time to ensure that pitches do not include promises for talent to promote anything other than the brand partnership. While we do expect this to get a little sticky, we know that morning/daytime/entertainment shows will want celebrity guests, so we anticipate they will work with us creatively to make this happen.” 

Marketers and agency execs also expect instances that rely on entertainment industry participation — conventions, awards shows and more — to be less impactful or enticing to marketers.

It’s unclear what happens next for the entertainment industry and how the various ripple effects will impact the industries around it. 

“The biggest impact here is obviously the length of the strike,” said Vic Drabicky, founder and CEO of January Digital. “The longer it drags on, the more brands will be challenged. And the more brands are challenged, the more they will find alternative ways of working — which could bring innovation and perhaps long-lasting change to the standard ways of working.”

3 Questions with Geoff Renaud, CMO & co-founder of experiential marketing agency, Invisible North

What are some examples of how agencies and brands are currently utilizing AI to enhance their in-person experiences and how might this look in the future? 

AI tools are helping expedite everything from design and render creation during planning stages, to enabling rapid creation of virtual extensions for physical experiences using world-creating tools like Atlas. Tools like Atlas create vast possibilities for extension beyond traditional physical environments. Invisible North has been investing heavily in these type of tools. We’re seeing more and more of the experiences we create, admire and attend feel like the “multiverse” or hybrid reality that everyone has been anticipating.

What impact could artificial intelligence have on experiential marketing? 

As your social feed will attest, AI-enabled creative tools are compounding at an incredible pace. While this enables a new world of hyper-dynamic experiences, the grail for experiential marketers will always be measurement, acquisition, and conversion. Measurement tools that help unlock data-driven results will create enormous value over the long term, but to date, these data-tracking tools aren’t as far along as the creation tools are, and implementation onsite at events is still a challenge. Facial recognition and other sentiment-tracking tools are still in need of regulation and consumer opt-in is a hurdle. Once solutions come to market that are value-additive and non-intrusive, there will be an enormous gain for marketers in driving conversion from experiences.

What are the ways in which marketers can incorporate more emerging technology tools into their plans and overall media mix?

We’ve adopted the term ‘approachable innovation’ to help clients navigate this world of new realities that is moving so fast. We try to separate the signal from the intense amount of noise and hype, and help clients implement easy-to-manage, useful tools. We’ve created a hub for top clients and friends of the agency that shares everything from newsletters, social accounts to follow, demos from tool builders, etc. — Julian Cannon

By the numbers

The increased content around medical issues from medical professionals as well as content creators and influencers has led some people to self-diagnose. To investigate the effects of self-diagnosing on social media, the medical practice platform Tebra surveyed 1,000 people across various platforms about their experiences with medical content. Participants were asked about their experiences with diagnosis content in their feeds, whether they self-diagnosed based on it, and what they did after. Find details from the report below:

  • In the last year, one out of four people self-diagnosed based on information they found on social media.
  • 43% of those who self-diagnosed followed up with a medical professional after discovering a disease or illness online.
  • 82% of people who visited a doctor after self-diagnosing via social media had their diagnosis confirmed. — Julian Cannon

Quote of the week

“I found that almost the entirety of my work, the work of almost every artist I know and the work of hundreds of thousands of artists have been taken without our consent, credit or compensation. These works were stolen and used to train for-profit technologies with datasets that contain billions of image and text data pairs.”

— Karla Ortiz, a concept artist and visual developer whose work includes Black Panther, Guardians of the Galaxy and Doctor Strange, during testimony for U.S. lawmakers looking into copyright issues with AI.

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