What is a Commercial Conflict? 

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  • What is a Commercial Conflict? 

    What happens when an actor is sought by a competing brand?

    (By Tonya Tannenbaum)

    (Photo: KoolShooters | Pexels)

    What happens when an actor performs in a commercial for one advertiser, and is then up for a role in a commercial by one of that advertiser’s competitors? The result may be what’s known as a commercial conflict.

  • A commercial conflict is a circumstance that arises when an actor is being considered for a role in a commercial for one advertiser that might clash, or “conflict”, with previous work the actor did for one of that advertiser’s competitors.

    In this case, the actor might be contractually prohibited from working with the advertiser, due to their previous work for the competitor. While working with the competitor, the actor may have signed a contract, agreeing not to appear in a rival’s commercial while the original commercial is airing.

  • An Example… 

    An example of a commercial conflict would be an actor who signs-on to appear in a commercial spot for McDonald’s. McDonald’s is prepared to invest significant resources to run that spot. They would, of course, not want the actors in their commercials to appear in a spot for a competitor like Wendy’s.

    So, to ensure that this does not happen, McDonald’s makes all the actors appearing in their commercial to agree, in writing, not to appear in a commercial for any other competing brand, including Wendy’s, during the lifecycle of the McDonald’s commercial.

    If the actor decides to accept a job from a competitor, he or she could then be subject to legal action.

  • Other forms of conflict… 

    There can be many different types of commercial conflicts. Some are less obvious than the direct, competitor vs. competitor example above.

    For example, the actor appearing in a McDonald’s commercial might have a commercial conflict when being considered for other fast-food brands. But there could also be other conflicts, such as competing products.


    Pro Tip: When possible, avoid listing specific commercial brands on your acting resumé, which could create a false perception that there is a conflict where no conflict actually exists.


    Here’s where commercial conflicts can get complicated. For example, let’s say the actor who appeared in the McDonald’s commercial, was specifically promoting McDonald’s coffee.

    Because the actor was promoting coffee, he may be prohibited from appearing in a commercial for a coffee brand, even though that brand is not a direct and obvious competitor of McDonald’s, as a restaurant.

    These types of details are spelled out in the actor’s contract.

  • The Importance of Respecting Conflicts

    It is your responsibility as an actor to honor your contract and to always be upfront about any commercial conflicts you may have. Failure to do so can result in legal action against you, and possibly your agent. It can also damage your reputation in the industry.

    Sometimes actors choose to obscure their conflicts, so as not to limit themselves from work opportunities. But this is a mistake in the long run.

    If a conflict is discovered after you have filmed a commercial, it could render that commercial useless; resulting in wasted ad dollars, and could cause a backlash against you and your rep.


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