Sunday night marked the biggest night in Hollywood, as first time host Seth MacFarlane sang and danced his way through an Academy Awards show that both entertained and put the soaring achievements of the film industry in 2012 on display. In recent years, the show received criticism, experiencing a decline from its former glory and incurring problems with ratings. Producers have scrambled to ‘fix’ the show in any way possible.
Last year’s Oscars used a slew of tactics intended to hook the viewers back in, but despite anticipation of an exciting show and a rejuvenated audience, the results were disappointing. Ratings were slightly up from a year prior, measured in statistics like “tweets per second,” but the level of engagement simply wasn’t high as expected. This posed a serious problem not just for producers but also for the advertisers hoping to achieve maximum return on advertising dollars.
2013’s nominees included more exciting contenders than last year’s roster, which was criticized for lacking any real mainstream or ‘blockbuster’ appeal. In 2012, J.C. Penney took the biggest gamble on the show’s underdog lineup, buying more airtime than any other advertiser to launch a campaign supporting its new business model, which incidentally worked out even more poorly than the Oscars themselves. This year, prices for advertising were on the rise with the expected increase in viewership, and marketers showed renewed enthusiasm, buying up spots early. Samsung, Hyundai, and Apple put in their best performances, and JC Penney even re-entered the fray in an effort to atone for its prior missteps, looking to course-correct with a new strategy, just like the Oscars themselves.
As usual, there was just about an equal amount of buzz dedicated to celebrity fashion displayed on the red carpet before the show. Thankfully, for 2013’s show, the glitz and glamour didn’t stop there. There was plenty of conversation across social media sparked by some memorable moments in the evening, like Best Actress winner Jennifer Lawrence stumbling up to the stage to accept her award or the esteemed Meryl Streep not-so-subtly ‘adjusting’ her dress while walking out to present the award for Best Actor. Whereas the best acts are usually booked for the Grammies a week earlier, the Oscars’ musical performances (and we’re not talking about MacFarlane’s bit pieces) were exceptional, and were met with glowing praise from the media. But most importantly, thanks to the likes of spectacular works such as Lincoln, Life of Pi, Silver Linings Playbook, and Best Picture winner Argo capturing the hearts and minds of the American public and the Academy, this major industry event was able to take in a much-needed breath of new life.
The Oscars prove time and time again that great opportunities for success, both in terms of the show’s production and for its advertisers, are born only under the right circumstances. We should know the formula by now: better nominees and better content equals much better engagement. When the audience is energized, as it clearly was last night, the year’s biggest awards show offers brands a chance to captivate and capitalize. It’s a little bit of that old Hollywood magic.