UPDATE Oct 20 16:12 So it seems like word has gotten back to one of the producers of the show and they are not happy with my blog post. They feel I’m being unfair and would like any mention of the show removed (I’m sorry but that isn’t going to happen perhaps I should mention the other two shows that you wanted us to partner). They are also claiming that the work would not be for free but is an Xdeal where our logo would appear on screen. I thought I’d made it clear in my blog that it was an Xdeal but I’ll spell it out a little more clearly. In exchange for our logo to appear on the TV show for a few seconds, Exposure was expected to provide 3 cameras and operators, and a photographer for up to 14 hours of labour at a day’s notice.
The producer also admitted that Xdeals were a way of saving money. That’s fine I’m a small business owner and I know that keeping your costs down is important. What I don’t understand is producers working for large corporations asking small businesses with much less capital, far fewer resources to work for no monetary compensation, in exchange for a logo appearing on screen. Who really benefits from that situation? I had a calm and fair discussion with another producer, not the same person who originally contacted us, and he said he would mention the practice and issue of Xdeals to the senior staff. Fair play for reaching out and trying resolving the situation and to make this issue aware to senior staff, but trying to censor people who speak up about bad business practices isn’t going to help the situation.
Over the weekend Exposure was asked if we’d like to become a partner for a highly rated TV show on one of the major broadcast corporations in the Philippines, ABS-CBN. It was quite exciting and I was interested to hear more details and to work with a big player in the Philippine broadcast media.
The show was The Voice Kids, a version of the hugely popular talent show, which has been a global success.
To become a “partner” of the show Exposure was asked to provide 3 cameras, 3 operators and sound and up to 14 hours of labour per person. Essentially producing a short 3-minute behind the scenes video for each episode of the TV show. They also needed us to provide a photographer, and be “on-call” expecting us to be available at a day’s notice.
What I wasn’t expecting to hear is that they wanted us to work on an “x-deal” basis, which meant that we wouldn’t be paid but our logo would appear at the start of the show as sponsor. We politely declined stating that we wouldn’t be able to work that long for free. The coordinating producer came back and asked us for our “maximum hours” – how long we were willing to work for an “x-deal”. When we sent him a figure for our services, he replied “Oh ok, I understand”, confirming that they have no intention of paying for our services.
I went from being surprised, excited, and frustrated to angry all in the space of about 30 minutes. The more I thought about it the more consumed with rage I became. A billion dollar company ABS-CBN was asking us to essentially subsidize the production costs of a globally franchised show.
For those of you who aren’t familiar with ABS-CBN they are one of the largest broadcast corporations in the Philippines. The company is valued at 1.386 billion USD and stated profits of 1.2 billion PHP or 26 million USD in the first half of 2015. They are not short of cash.
The sums of money we are talking about for the proposed work are tiny in comparison. For a large corporation it’s peanuts but for a small business it is a significant amount. I don’t believe we charge huge fees for our work, but this is about more than just a couple thousand dollars. It’s the arrogance that large corporations believe they can squeeze small companies into working for very little or for free.
Some people may argue that it’s good exposure for us to have our logo on a high rating TV show and I’d agree. It would be advantageous BUT I don’t believe that having a logo appear on screen for several seconds is anywhere near adequate compensation. The names of the ABS CBN employees who direct and produce the show and appear on the credits at the end of the show are not working for free nor are they providing the equipment they need to make the TV show. So why ask a small company to do something that it’s own employees would not be willing to do? To save money.
This isn’t a problem specific to the Philippines, on numerous occasions I’ve been asked to work for free or companies have asked to use videos that I’ve produced for free. It’s a global problem and something almost all creative industries have to deal with. Don’t get me wrong if you are starting out or are really passionate about a certain issue/story or believe you will benefit from working for a reduced fee or “xdeal” by all means go ahead. In the past we have waived our fee to produce videos for start-ups, organisations and individuals that we really believe in and want to support.
When a large corporation with huge budgets approaches you to work for free, please make a stand.
It’s a constant battle to get people to value your work. I try to make people aware of this rule. Fast, good and cheap and ask clients to choose two out of three. It sometimes works but usually clients don’t care and will always go for the lowest price regardless of quality. I think this video sums up the situation far better than I can in words.
People and companies are always trying to get the best deal possible and as a small business owner I can respect that, but there is stepping over the line and there is being disrespectful.
Ok rant over.
But please the next time you are asked to work for free for exposure or for an “xdeal” think about how it effects not just you but the field in which you are working in the long term.
Please share this if you value the creative industries and want to ensure people get paid for their creative work.
Images, screen shots from ABS-CBN The Voice Kids Philippines website.