The annual Academy Awards show’s ratings may be flattening out, but advertisers’ enthusiasm for the telecast most definitely is not. Despite projections that viewership of Sunday’s Oscars will dip below last year’s 34 million, and estimates of significant cost increases for 30-second spots, commercial ad inventory for the 2018 broadcast sold out faster than ever in the Academy’s televised history. Clearly, today’s brands continue to see the entertainment industry’s glitziest night as a golden opportunity to connect with consumers. Here are a few takeaways from the advertising run-up to the red-carpet event.
Live TV Is Advertising’s Little Black Dress
Advertisers’ willingness to spend big bucks on Oscar night highlights the enduring appeal of live TV events in an ever more fragmented TV market. While opportunities for reaching a guaranteed, substantial and engaged audience outside of sports are growing rare (when was the last time advertisers had the chance to tap into a “Friends” or “Seinfeld” finale-size audience?), advertisers continue to make big bets on this traditional format — but not for wholly traditional reasons. Today’s advertisers know that tapping into a live-viewing audience not only gains valuable exposure in the moment, but also opens up the potential for capitalizing on that exposure via social media channels—provided they are savvy enough to take advantage of the millions upon millions of posts, comments, likes and tweets generated by a show like the Academy Awards. Look for brands taking to Facebook and Twitter during Sunday’s broadcast to heighten the impact of their on-air investments.
Custom Fit Rules the Runway
Capitalizing on TV’s reach may seem old hat, but this year marketers are continuing to put new, innovative and highly customized spins on the ads they’re broadcasting. Taking a page from the Superbowl playbook, ABC is encouraging advertisers to use the Oscars platform to debut new content that—like the movies the show is celebrating—forges an emotional connection with the viewer. And brands are stepping up. Rita Ferro, President of Sales at Disney-ABC TV group, notes that 10 of this year’s Oscars’ sponsors will debut custom content during the telecast, up from five last year. Among them is Walmart, which has once again created 60-second short films to air for the first time during commercial breaks.
Last year’s effort from Walmart showed the company taking a new advertising tack to encourage consumers to think differently about the big-box retailer. While Walmart earned praise for breaking boundaries, it also drew a fair amount of ire for choosing an all-male line-up of directors for the three spots. This year the ads are being directed by an all-female team that includes Melissa McCarthy, Nancy Meyers and Dee Rees. While Walmart said the move to use only female directors wasn’t intended to align with the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements, the ads are likely to resonate with the largely female Oscar-viewing audience. Which leads in to the final takeaway of what we can expect to see of brands on Sunday.
Wear a Ribbon
Increasingly, as we noted in last year’s Oscar post, more advertisers are taking a stand with their creative and earning consumer loyalty as a result. In a nod to the country’s highly charged political and cultural landscape, advertisers last year such as Cadillac, GE and Hyatt aired ads advocating for unity, gender equality and understanding. This trend is where P&G’s Marc Pritchard believes the industry should be moving, according to a recent interview in which he urged brands to use their prominence and reach to promote more equality.
There’s no way of knowing who will be bringing home gold on Sunday, but it’s clear that advertisers are making deep investments in the power of live TV to make an impact on consumers.