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What is a “Commercial Conflict”?

What is a commercial conflict?  How do you know if you have a commercial conflict?  If you have a commercial conflict, what should you do?  Well, strictly speaking, a commercial conflict boils down to this:

CONFLICT – Status of being paid for services in a commercial for one advertiser, thereby contractually preventing performing services in a commercial for a competitor.

When you’re booked for a commercial, you’re helping a company sell its product.  Maybe you make cereal seem so fantastic that other kids and parents will want to buy it, so the cereal company approves you, and you’re cast in its cereal commercial.  That company wants its cereal, and the actors in its cereal commercial, to help them stand apart from competitors.  So while the cereal commercial is running, actors in it cannot act in another commercial that would be in competition—or conflict—with the cereal commercial.

The SAG Commercial Agreement assures advertisers who cast SAG actors in their commercials that the SAG actor will not perform in a commercial for a competing product during the time the original commercial is active.  And because of the SAG Commercial Agreement, that detail is usually in your contract, which you’ll need to READ and SIGN before you work, and KEEP AFTERWARDS.  It falls to you, the actor, to fulfill your obligation to the company that hired you for the commercial.  In fact, legal action can result if you don’t respect that obligation.  Legal action means you can be sued.

Some commercial conflicts are obvious.  If you’re in a commercial for one brand of soft drink, you probably shouldn’t accept a commercial job for another brand of soft drink until the earlier commercial stops running.  Other conflicts are not as obvious.  What about an energy drink?  What about juice?  Do they conflict?  Possibly, and not necessarily.  And how can you know whether the previous commercial you were in is still running?

If you’re facing your first job, congratulations!  And no, you don’t have a commercial conflict because you have no previous work to conflict with.  But you might for your next job, so read on!  If you’re not facing your first job and you’re worried you may have a commercial conflict, congratulations again!  You’re booking jobs and in demand!  No matter what’s going on with this job, you’re obviously doing a lot of things right.  Keep it up!

Secondly, be true to your obligations and stay professional.  SAG can help you determine whether you have a commercial conflict, and if you have any questions you can call the Commercials Department at SAG, even if you’re not a member.   You can call the Guild directly at (800) SAG-0767.

Thirdly, have faith in yourself and your career enough to be honest.  If you have a commercial conflict, or suspect you may have one, disclose it.  Tell casting, confer with SAG, and be willing to walk away from a job rather than create a problem for yourself or damage your reputation.  If you hide a conflict and shoot anyway, you could be paying for it for years.  A company may even “wave” its concern and want to use you anyway (not likely—everyone wants their commercials to represent only themselves), but remember that your professional obligation is to both parties, both the earlier company and the present company.  You would need permission from both to legitimately continue, and that would likely involve lawyers and a whole separate contract…  It can get pretty involved.

For actors early in their careers, and even for some established actors, it can seem unbearable to say no to a job.  Keep in mind that one commercial is not your career, especially not one that has to stop airing due to your commercial conflict—that’s time, money, and trust wasted.

Casting Directors are known for having great memories.  If they liked you once, they’ll like you again.  If they know they can trust you to be professional in all your obligations, they’ll want you even more.  Professionalism and trust are key components of every actor’s career, and at every stage of success.  That’s why we integrate both here at 3-2-1- Acting Studios in all levels of our acting classes for kids, teens and young adults in Los Angeles.  Come by sometime or book a free class and see for yourself how our students acquire these skills and apply them in life, in school, and—for those who want to pursue acting as a career—in commercials, television shows, films, modeling, and more!

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