If you’ve entered into a celebrity endorsement agreement lately, you’re not alone in being amazed that, while we’re all feeling the brunt of a recession (even though prognosticators tell us it’s over), celebrities (or more often their agents), seem to be getting greedier than ever.
It’s bad enough that the typical annual fee for a few days’ work is now almost always in the seven figures, but isn’t it a bit much when they also want things like this:
- Travel. First-class airfare not just for themselves (as required under SAG and AFTRA), but also for their entire entourage? What? They can’t travel alone like the rest of us working stiffs? For what they’re being paid, they could bring just about anyone they’d like. Just think of the frequent flyer miles they’d get! Worse, of late, the “stars” are demanding private jets – as in about $75,000 per trip! Really now, isn’t that a bit much? The usual reason they demand to fly private jets is personal security. I bet even the TSA would argue with an agent as to whether that’s justified. Or maybe it’s really because they don’t want to associate with those fans who contribute to their fame and fortune. Or, it’s the paparazzi. But if all of that is a problem, I’m sure the airlines can find a way to get them to the plane through some secret entrance that only they know about. Get real and join the rest of us (we’ll be the ones in the back of the plane).
- Work Days. Increasingly, days of service are limited to no more than 10 hours, sometimes even eight. And less for photo shoots or personal appearances. Gee, don’t you feel bad for someone being paid seven figures who might have to work overtime? And, yes, I’m willing to concede that much of what an advertiser pays is for the fame associated with the celebrity, which certainly eats into the day rate. But come on. Don’t we all wish we could go home after 10 hours?
- Behave! Judging by the behavior clauses agents are demanding, one can’t help but think that agents for celebrities simply don’t trust their clients. If you can call them behavior clauses at all. When the standard is “convicted” of a felony, you might as well ignore the clause. The contract will long be over by the time the jury decides what to do. And please, agents, stop telling us how wonderful your client is. I suspect they said that for just about every celebrity who fell from grace with prostitutes, alcohol, drugs, bigotry, or domestic violence. Shouldn’t agents ask their clients to behave just like the rest of us do? Imagine if any of us embarrassed our employers in public like some celebrities do. Guess what happens then?
- Approval. Just how far can approval rights go before the celebrities might as well write the ads? Maybe I can understand approval rights over executions that directly reflect negatively on the celebrity themselves, but approval of overall copy is ridiculous. Perhaps it’s best for advertisers to send a portfolio of what they’ve done in the past and ask the celebrity not to waste their time unless they don’t mind how the advertiser historically sells its products. And best of all are the celebrities who won’t let anyone else appear in an advertisement with them. Imagine telling a movie producer they want to be the only actor in a movie. Stop already.
- Prohibited Media. Increasingly, the list of media an advertiser can’t use is longer than the media permitted. I can remember when life-sized cutouts and some outdoor was all that was prohibited in most contracts. Now, it’s anything that wasn’t invented 10 years ago, including mobile, social media, and all the new media platforms where advertisers are migrating more and more media dollars. Does that make sense? Worse, an increasing number of celebs want to approve media schedules! Since when did a celebrity earn that right? I think it’s pretty safe to say that the advertiser knows best where to place ads so that, God forbid, they lead to sales.
- Exposure. Hello? What do you think advertising is about? Hoping that someone might see the ad in some obscure magazine and then maybe buy the product? Let’s get real here. Celebrities are hired by advertisers for one reason – to increase sales. Surprise! And that means one thing – exposure, and as much of it as the advertiser can afford. But then again, I guess the exposure problem makes sense when you look at all the celebrities whose careers have been ruined because they appeared in advertising. Oh, wait. I can’t seem to find that list. But how about the one I did find – the one listing all the actors who would be unemployed memories but for the advertising they’re asked to do? Now that’s an interesting list agents and their clients ought to appreciate a lot more than they do.
The insanity goes on and on and the greed seems unending. Yep. Hollywood needs a wake-up call. Or do they? Maybe it’s not Hollywood that needs to wake up. After all, they’re getting away with it. Maybe, just maybe, it’s the advertising community – the advertisers, the advertising agencies and the celebrity brokers – that needs the wake-up call. Because as long as they keep saying “yes” to whatever a star wants, the less and less they’ll get and the more they’ll pay for it.