If “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” wins Best Picture at the Academy Awards, it will be a first for a movie about an advertising campaign. But three billboards is nothing compared to what advertisers will be airing during the awards show broadcast March 4 on ABC.
According to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, ABC set a new record when it sold out its ad inventory two weeks ago. It was the fastest sellout in Oscar history, with the revenue rising in high-single-digit percentages.
Like most TV programming, special events have been losing ground in a fragmented media landscape. Last year’s awards show made news mostly for a global gaffe where presenters announced the wrong Best Picture winner. While the show on is not a draw on the level of the Olympics or last month’s Super Bowl, it still commands a hefty premium for a reason. Thirty-second spots in the telecast sold for up to $2.6 million, according to Variety, compared to over $5 million for the Super Bowl.
Marketers factor in that the audience for the Oscars is global and more diverse than the football fan base. In this age of fragmented media, the show is second only to the Super Bowl in the ability to become appointment television. Like most live events in these times of YouTube and streaming, the awards show will livestream online on Oscars.com, ABC.com and the ABC mobile app.
As expected in the social media age, marketers will be leveraging all platforms extensively. Sponsors are hosting activations online before, during and after the show. The Oscars are even more of a social activity than the Super Bowl for the fandom, so marketers leverage all the activities around the show, from the red carpet arrivals to the after-parties. Sponsor AT&T is also sponsoring the Academy’s official backstage livestream all evening on Facebook Live.
Farmers Insurance isn’t an Oscar sponsor, but it has managed to leverage its relationship with its spokesman, actor JK Simons in a social media activation around the awards. As Professor Burke, the veteran character actor has pitched the company in commercials since before he won an Oscar for his role in “Whiplash.” Last year, Farmers launched the Burkies, a satirical awards based on its campaign touting real-life insurance claims that beggared belief. The second installment of fake trailers by agency RPA is available online.
The telecast has gained a reputation as “the Super Bowl for Women” with many packaged-goods and retail advertisers choosing it as a launchpad for campaigns. This year’s show claims a record number of marketer categories including apparel, auto, insurance, CPG, entertainment, financial, technology, telecom, tourism and retail. Marketers on the show include sponsors, AT&T, Cadillac, Google, Rolex, Samsung and Walmart; and participating sponsors, AARP, PepsiCo, Discover Card, Disney Parks, Ferrero, General Electric, Johnson & Johnson, McDonald’s, MGM, Microsoft, Nest, Netflix, Nike, T-Mobile, Twitter, Verizon, Walt Disney Pictures and Walt Disney World.
PepsiCo will use the broadcast to introduce bubly, a line of fruit-flavored sparkling waters, targeting young consumers with a campaign from agency R/GA.
Last year’s telecast included a large number of nods to the contentious mood of the country after the presidential campaign and the Women’s March. Cadillac brought out past icons to remind the audience of a time when the country could come together, The New York Times touted truth in an era of fake news, and GE pondered what would happen if women scientists were stars.
This year, with the #oscarssowhite, #metoo and #TimesUp movements still top of mind, expect to see a lot of female empowerment messages, inspirational stories and purpose-led campaigns. Walmart, an Oscar sponsor that launched a series of mini movies during last year’s broadcast, will repeat the strategy this year with a twist: the directors on this series will all be female. It enlisted filmmaker Nancy Meyer, comedian Melissa McCarthy, and “Mudbound” director Dee Rees as part of the campaign by Publicis.
Not all Oscar-related ads have to be on the telecast. The Outdoor Advertising Association of America, the trade group for out-of-home media, mined some unexpected gold from the raft of nominations for “Three Billboards.” The group decided to make a point of the continued relevance of outdoor media in the digital era by taking out a series of billboards, created by Grand Rapids, Mich. agency Extra Credit Projects.
The signs were placed in the entertainment industry capitals of Los Angeles and New York, and in North Carolina, where the movie was shot. Some are traditional static billboards, while others—such as the one in New York’s Times Square—use digital signage and may change messages if the movie picks up some awards.
What’s your favorite Oscar advertising? Let us know on Twitter @VelocitizePub!