Dealer Spots

Dear Jackie:

I just shot a commercial for a major car company. I was so excited and was looking forward to making money. Then, when I was on-set, another actor was complaining that our ad was a "dealer spot." I didn't admit it then, but I don't know what that means. I asked my agent, and she said it has something to do with the way you get paid, and that it usually pays less than a regular national spot. She couldn't explain the details to me, though.

I am now feeling let down. Does this mean I won't make any money? What is the difference in pay between a dealer spot and a regular national spot? Any idea how much I will get paid for this? Shouldn't my agent have told me what type of contract the job was for before I shot the commercial?

Dealing With a Dealer Spot,

Toluca Lake, Calif.

Dear Dealing:

A dealer spot is a commercial that is made by a product's national manufacturer and then given to the product's dealerships--some of which are owned by the manufacturer, some of which are not--for broadcast. The airing of the commercial is done on time purchased by each specific dealer or the dealer association. So the commercial itself is paid for by the manufacturer, giving smaller dealerships the opportunity to advertise with high-quality ads, but the media buys, or purchasing of airtime, is done by the dealer.

What does this mean for you? Well, to be blunt, it probably means less money than you were hoping for. With the payment of a six-month use fee, a dealer spot can air as a wild spot (a spot that airs independently of any specific program or airs only during local programming) or as a Class B or C spot (a spot that runs in fewer than 21 cities in one cycle. For computing purposes, the major markets--New York City, L.A., and Chicago--count as 11 cities each). You will not be paid per use, as in a Class A spot, and the holding fee you would receive every 13 weeks under Class B or C contracts is waived for the first cycle of a dealer spot. The particulars go on and on. Commercial contracts are complicated and highly specific. How much you will make depends on where the spot airs and how long it runs. Unfortunately I can't be more precise. Go to www.sag.com and open the Resources menu. Click on Contract Information. There you will find the Contract Corner, in which just about any contract question can be researched.

I am not saying a dealer spot isn't a great gig. You should still celebrate the booking. You might not want to rush out and buy a new stereo system, but you should certainly treat yourself to a new CD. And remember, no commercial, no job for that matter, is a guaranteed windfall. Some major spots and programs never air at all, so it might be wise to sit on your hands until you can wrap them around a substantial check. As for your agent, she should have told you specifics about the commercial contract. But here's the thing: She might have assumed you knew it was a dealer spot, just like you assumed it was a national.

According to the SAG Commercial Contract Digest: "A principal performer must be advised at the time of the audition and hire whether a commercial is intended to be used as a Dealer Commercial. The right to use a commercial as a Dealer Commercial is subject to the principal performer's consent, as provided in the Standard Employment Contract form. If consent is not obtained, the Producer does not have the right to use the commercial as a Dealer Commercial." This language puts responsibility on the producer to inform the actor of the commercial's intended status up-front. Did you read all the information posted above the sign-in sheet at your audition? I'm going to bet this was there as well as on the breakdown your agent received. And, if it wasn't, you gave consent when you signed your contract on-set. Ah, well. It's no Class A, but it's better than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick.