SAG Influencer Agreement: Overview

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SAG Influencer Agreement: Overview

Mar 31, 2021

Our eighth minisode of the fourth season of “The Creative Influencer” podcast is available today for download on iTunes, Spotify, and premier platforms everywhere. In this minisode, Jon provides an overview of the new agreement from the Screen Actors’ Guild of America covering content created by influencers when they are paid to advertise products or services.


A transcript of the episode follows:

Last month, the Screen Actors’ Guild of America (SAG-AFTRA, or “SAG” for short) approved a new agreement covering content created by influencers when they are paid to advertise products or services.

Today we are going to provide an overview of the SAG influencer agreement and in our next minisode we’ll discuss the pros and cons of the agreement.

Until now, SAG did not cover influencer work. Membership in the union was only for actors, announcers, dancers, dj’s, broadcast news journalists, writers and directors, program hosts, recording artists, singers, stunt performers, voiceover artists and my favorite, puppeteers.

Now we can add influencers to the list.

For background, SAG was created in 1933 during the Great Depression to protect actors, who at the time were being forced to work in bad conditions (without for example, breaks for food or time to rest) In many cases they were forced to sign onerous contracts with studios that would last for multiple years and some of those contracts dictated how performers could behave in their day-to-day lives. Think back to shows or movies you may have seen about this period, where actors were “under contract” with a studio, and they were obligated to do basically anything the studio told them to do.

SAG changed this landscape. Members of the union are protected by a uniform contract that is used by all studios and production companies that are SAG signatories. These uniform agreements are the same as really any collective bargaining agreement: they put limits on what performers are required to do, when they have to do it, and establish minimums for compensation.

The union said that the new influencers agreement will allow it to “increase its coverage over this form of advertising, and increase opportunities for members to earn union income and qualify for health and pension benefits.”

“Making it easier to cover this type of work has been a top priority for our organization,” SAG-AFTRA president Gabrielle Carteris said after the approval of the contract. “As new ways of storytelling emerge, it’s imperative that we embrace and lift up these artists.”

“Presently, influencer content creation is overwhelmingly non-union,” SAG says, noting that until now it has not offered a contract designed specifically to allow Influencers to cover the sponsored content they create. As a result, the union says, “Members have had to turn down opportunities for Influencer brand deals or risk working off the card. Another result is that Influencers who are not members have had no viable path to union membership, preventing the union from organizing this growing and increasingly high-profile group of performers. The union is also losing the opportunity to achieve new and additional funding for the Pension & Health Plans.”

“Increasingly, members who are successful in traditional mediums are doing more Influencer-type work, and more Influencers are moving into traditional mediums,” the union said. “It’s crucial to allow all our members to cover all their performance work with a union contract. As is evidenced by their dedicated followers and the volume of advertisers who want to hire them to sell their products, Influencers are creative, multi-talented performers whose performances should be covered by a SAG-AFTRA contract.”

The union does not set a minimum pay rate for those working under the new contract, like they do for other acting roles. “Compensation is freely bargained – meaning it’s whatever the Influencer negotiates with the advertiser. Agreements between Influencers and advertisers vary significantly. There are no set rates and other terms can be very different as well. The Influencer’s company is treated similarly to an advertising agency that is paid by an advertiser to produce, edit and distribute content.”

There is no follower count minimum required to join the union, but there are limitations to who is eligible to sign the Influencer Agreement.

First, you have to have a loan-out company in order to sign the contract with SAG. The loan-out company is the SAG signatory, meaning it fills the role of the production company or advertising agency, which would be the signatory for a traditional commercial.

Second, this only applies to video or voice-over work. This would include a short clip on Instagram Reels or TikTok. But still images, like a regular Instagram post, are not covered by the agreement or SAG eligible. This makes sense - SAG is for actors, and video and voice-over work is acting. Modeling is not.

Third, the video must only feature the influencer. You cannot have other people in the video, since the contract is only designed for one actor.

This new contract is definitely a benefit for current SAG members, who want to keep all of their work covered by the union. But what about influencers who are not currently members of the union. What’s in it for them?

As I mentioned at the start, we’ll cover the pros and cons of the new influencer agreement in our next minisode.

The Creative Influencer is a weekly podcast where we discuss all things creative with an emphasis on Influencers. It is hosted by Jon Pfeiffer, an entertainment attorney in Santa Monica, California.  Jon interviews influencers, creatives and the professionals who work with them.

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