The Business of Talent and Rights: A Marketer’s Story

By Melinda McLaughlin  | 

*This article was written for ANA Marketing Maestros and originally published on the ANA website.

As the media landscape increases in complexity, so too do the strict payment obligations to the performers and rights owners who bring the brand stories alive. Because talent and rights payments are intrinsically connected to where and when ads play, tracking them across our ever-expanding digital universe is beyond what is possible using manual-heavy legacy practices. At the same time, understanding the impact these expenses will have on the scale of the production and media buy requires priceless human insight — especially when navigating the give and take between a highly creative process and budget realities.

The right combination of tech automation and expert counsel is essential for successfully managing the talent piece of complex cross-screen campaigns. My own experience with a recent ER campaign allowed me to walk in the shoes of the brand marketers our platform was built to support, experiencing our technology and services from the client side.

Bringing a B2C sensibility to a B2B campaign, this one called for casting an ensemble of eight union comedy actors. And with a tight budget, we were determined to get every single shot and scene required in one, very long, 14-hour shoot. To add complexity to this challenge, we knew we’d be creating not just one brilliant story but everything from a long-form episode to two different :15 skippable pre-roll spots, to outtakes and extra scenes.

Aside from reporting that it’s hilarious to watch an ensemble of improv actors deliver advertising workflow lingo, here are my other take-aways about managing the talent and rights function.

Microchipping Your Creative
Chipping a beloved pet provides peace of mind should he or she stray too far afield. When video lived solely in the closed, controlled TV environment, keeping track of the contract obligations and required payments associated with each ad was a straightforward process. And stopping those ads from playing upon expiration, which is paramount, was straightforward too.

Enter the internet. In this video-everywhere world, where the number of assets and the destinations they’re bound for have exploded, brands need technology to track where their stories play across every screen. Precision compliance has never been more vital and the stakes are high if you are hit with big fines. If that doesn’t seem like a serious concern, consider this: our data shows that over $75 million is spent annually on rights-associated penalties for late payments, unanticipated use, or unauthorized use, while penalties associated with just one celebrity misuse can easily go into seven figures.

Our Air Quotes campaign included many different types of assets and gave me a new appreciation for the peace of mind that comes with knowing, as a marketer, that one’s precious gems are all in one central place together with all the corresponding metadata, destination information, usage data, talent and rights detail, and expiration dates. And when it came time to stop the campaign upon rights and usage expiration, it would have been overwhelming without AdBridge technology and the ER talent team.

Dream Big But Understand the Trade-Offs
It’s easy to fall in love with a concept and start dreaming bigger and bigger. But alas, I’m guessing that, like my budget, yours isn’t infinite either. The estimate of talent and rights scope is an essential part of the campaign process. But understanding estimates and their implications on the broader campaign requires fluency in complex union agreements and deep insight into the way productions work. Our talent team ran many different scenarios through the estimating process as the creative concept came to life and as storyboards and scripts moved through many iterations. This gave me valuable budget context to weave into our collective decision-making process.

For example, our concept began with only four on-camera principal actors but along the way, the creative team felt passionately that we needed an ensemble that could play off each other in a way that would elevate the humor and help tell our story more clearly. By re-running scenarios and understanding usage rights complexities, I was able to shift our media usage plans in order to afford an amazing group of talented actors.

This kind of teamwork in real time, working side-by-side with the creative geniuses and the talent and rights experts, not only speeds the process of nailing your plans but also fosters a highly collaborative and satisfying dynamic between the storytellers and the budget maestros.

Professional Handling of a Precious Investment
We marketers proverbially invest our own blood, sweat and tears in everything from writing a brief to inspiring strong creative concepts, to shaping plans, to ensuring the brand stories play perfectly everywhere according to plan. The process is humbling and it creates as much personal vulnerability as professional.

I know first-hand that centralizing management of creative assets in a platform fully integrated with talent and rights management ensures a seamless experience from the early stages of concepting and budgeting all the way through launching a campaign. But even more importantly, finding the right combination of technology and experts, brings priceless peace of mind during an exciting — but also stressful — high-stakes endeavor.

At Extreme Reach, we’re immensely proud to support the art and business of brand storytelling in all its forms, removing workflow friction and providing human counsel so our clients can dream up big stories and never lose sleep over talent and rights management.

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