Will Michael Keaton win best actor for Birdman at the 87th Academy Awards on Sunday or will it be The Theory of Everything’s Eddie Redmayne? Will the best actress be Reese Witherspoon ( Wild) or Julianne Moore (Still Alice)?
Or will the biggest winner of the night not be a film at all, but a “selfie” taken with a Samsung phone? Angelina Jolie, Kevin Spacey, Brad Pitt and Jennifer Lawrence were among the stars crammed into the picture, which was taken by Bradley Cooper, during last year’s awards ceremony.
The snap was posted on Twitter and quickly broke records: it was retweeted 3.3m times, suggesting that the Oscars has become as big a draw on social media as it is on television.
Even the slightest reflected glory from Hollywood’s stardust can have a dramatic impact on a brand or product. Revenues generated by the Academy Awards rose from $93.7m to $97.3m in 2014, according to the academy’s annual report.
The organisation did not receive a direct financial benefit from the star-studded Samsung selfie. “It was an added bonus for Samsung,” said Christina Kounelias, chief marketing officer of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
Social media and audience engagement, however, appear to have lifted what the Oscars can generate from traditional advertising. A 30-second ad during the show costs $2m this year, up from $1.76m in 2014. ABC, the Walt Disney-owned broadcast network which will screen the show, has said commercial time sold out months ago.
“The Oscars is the biggest television opportunity of the year for advertisers outside of the Super Bowl,” says Ryan Pamplin, vice-president at Extreme Reach, which distributes video advertising on TV and digital platforms. “Other awards shows — the Grammys, the Emmys, the Golden Globes — all have declining audiences over the last couple of years, whereas the Oscars has actually been increasing its audience size.”
The 2014 awards broadcast drew 43.7m viewers, the most since 2000, according to Nielsen. “We’ve become a destination to launch high-profile campaigns,” said Ms Kounelias. The Super Bowl earlier this month was the most-watched TV programme in US history, with 114.4m viewers.
Among the three biggest awards shows, the Oscars takes the top spot for total ad spending, according to data from WPP’s Kantar Media. Advertising revenue from last year’s Oscars reached $95m, up 30 per cent from a decade ago, and beating the Grammys and the Golden Globes.
With TV ratings broadly slipping as consumers turn to on-demand viewing and streaming services, advertisers are keen to place their messages during live events, such as awards shows and sporting events, that generate social media chatter and draw younger viewers, says Kantar.
JC Penney, Samsung and American Express, three of the top five Oscars ad spenders in the past five years, are returning this year, while Netflix and Petsmart are among the brands advertising for the first time.
Extreme Reach has found that one measure of ads’ effectiveness — the percentage of viewers who said they were likely to purchase a product after seeing an ad — was stronger in last year’s Academy Awards than in the 2015 Super Bowl. Mr Pamplin says that is due, in part, to who make up the Oscars’ audience and brands’ ability to tailor their ads to those viewers.
“The Oscars skews heavily towards women of higher income, which is a far more specific audience than the Super Bowl. The ads and messaging are designed to speak to that specific audience,” he said, citing brands such as Diet Coke.
Ms Kounelias said the Oscars was the “flip side” of the Super Bowl which, historically, had been a male-dominated TV audience that had lately begun to skew towards women and families.
“We’re the opposite, a female skewing event that has lately begun to skew towards men,” she added. “That’s where the growth areas are.”
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