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The Academy Awards have been an entertaining promotion of the movie industry for decades. At its peak, the 3-hour distribution of the golden Oscar to the industry’s best performances captured millions of viewers and generated unprecedented hype for cinema performers, directors and technicians. The once high viewer ratings have diminished over the past two years due to falling interest in a program that has strayed beyond its stated mission and into the critical arena of politics and overt promotion of controversial social issues.
The prediction for the 91st edition of the Academy Awards was dire at the program’s debut but the ABC TV network managed to garner a record $2.6 million for a 30-second advertising spot on the 2019 program. ABC sells more advertising on Oscar Sunday than any day of the year.
This year’s major brands included: Google, McDonald’s, Verizon, Walmart, Cadillac and Walt Disney. Nike used the platform to launch a powerful, female-focused “Dream Crazy” campaign, fronted by tennis legend Serena Williams. Embarrassed by a failing sneaker worn by its spokesman basketball star in Duke University’s loss to North Carolina the previous week, the iconic brand needed a big win to erase the memory of that debacle from consumers’ minds.
“The Super Bowl is over. It’s mid-February,” Jeff Greenfield, chief operating officer of C3 Metrics, a media measurement company, said in a recent interview. “I am Walmart. My competitor is Amazon. Where can I go and compete against Amazon on what is essentially a global stage and get reach today? It’s the Oscars. … For a brand like a Walmart, they have to be there.” Despite a falling viewer audience, ABC will rack-up more than $150 million from this year’s event. Apparently, falling attendance and program ratings are having little effect on those brands that are willing to pay a premium to share the world’s entertainment stage.
The once “don’t mix politics, religion and controversial social issues with business” mantra that guided advertising for centuries is quickly being abandoned as marketers perceive changing trends in consumers’ favor for socially conscience brands. Providers of major entertainment like the National Football League (NFL) however, are learning that the diversion from focusing on the quality of the entertainment to the promotion of controversy has its limits with a diverse consumer audience. Going forward, promotors of programs like the Academy Awards may want to temper the rhetoric of controversy and refocus on awarding favor to artistic performance if they want to advance their own brand to a more diverse community of consumers.
This year’s ratings bump was welcomed after years of declining interest among viewers but the impact of the increase may be short lived, or not. The fact remains that the Oscars televised event with all its tarnish still attracts a reliable but fractured viewing audience. For brands looking to reach that audience, the Oscars ceremony continues to be an important venue to promote.