How to Win at the Oscars

February 21, 2013

If the Super Bowl is about beer, chips and boobs, then this weekend’s Oscars ceremony is all about diet soda, yogurt and hunks.

I know they play football during the Super Bowl and give out movie awards during the Oscars, but the advertising in these big-event broadcasts is must-see television, too. For this reason, advertisers are shelling out big bucks to participate.

ABC is charging up to $1.8 million per each 30 seconds of advertising and says the show is sold out. By comparison, the Super Bowl cost almost twice as much. But $1.8 million is still a big price tag, one that comes with risks if your ad fails to deliver. For the right brands with the right message, it can be a good deal. For the wrong brands or ones with the wrong message it is money down the drain.

What are the keys to success for Oscar ads?

1. Stay true to the theme of the event.

The Super Bowl is about guys waving the American flag, drinking beer, eating chips and making crude jokes in front of the television. The Oscars are about Hollywood glitz, glamour and grace. It is about sipping champagne, wearing gowns and getting awards. Women rule the roost on this night.

2. Winners do best.

When it comes to advertising at big events, leading brands with strong perceptions do best. It’s why Budweiser does so well at the Super Bowl. It is a lot easier for the leading brand to connect it to the event by making a broad statement about its category. To gain any ground, the number 2 brand needs to say why it is different or better than the number 1 brand. At the Super Bowl the past few years, Chrysler ran some emotionally powerful and memorable ads promoting Detroit and the American automotive industry, but I would argue those ads did more to help Ford and General Motors both of which are far bigger. Not to mention Chrysler is half-owned by an Italian and run by a Frenchman.

3. Consistency is key.

Advertising sporadically or only once in a big event rarely works. There are three reason why it is best if you stick to it year after year. One, consumers will come to look for your ads. Two, you get better at making ads for big events. After several years, Tide finally scored big with its Miracle Stain Super Bowl ad. Having experienced what works and doesn’t is very helpful. Three, staying consistent in the event generally keeps your competition out. Pepsi dropped out of the Super Bowl for a number of years which allowed Coca-Cola to jump in and take over the limelight.

Here are some comments about the ads we expect to see at the Oscars Sunday:

Diet Coke – “Gardner Visual Hammer – Hunky guy

Consistency works. Diet Coke has been an Oscar regular. And its Hunky-themed ads have been running for almost 20 years. After losing out at the Super Bowl, women finally get their turn to objectify men. The problem is fact that Diet Coke is dying. The brand that is soaring and should have been advertised is Coke Zero! But for the Oscars maybe the hunky-guy would have worked well for the Zero brand too.

Chobani Greek Yogurt – “Go Real”

When you are the leader of a hot new category everybody is talking about, pouring on massive advertising is a good idea. When it comes to Greek yogurt and Chobani, the Oscars are the perfect place to launch a new massive campaign. The only problem here is the message. “Go Real” is the tagline? Go real? Shouldn’t it have at least been Go Greek? It isn’t about real or not. It is about Greek having more protein, no fat and filling you up.
(But wait I just checked the Chobani website and they have launched new low-fat 2% yogurt, there goes the no-fat focus.) Chobani also needs a visual hammer for the brand. The package design is visually different but doesn’t communicate an idea. They can forget using John Stamos as the hammer, Dannon already hired him with miserable results.

Hyundai equus

Hyundai has been doing extremely well. This Korean car maker produces fun, affordable cars that are stylish and offer ridiculously long warranties. While advertising during the Super Bowl certainly made sense, does it make sense at the Oscars? It would promoted their stylish, yet affordable cars. Instead what are they doing? Using the show to promote their luxury line of cars. $60,000 for a Hyundai? You have got to be kidding. Like Bradley Cooper is going to drive a Hyundai? No celebrity or person with $60,000 to spend will buy a Hyundai when they could have a BMW, Audi, Mercedes or Lexus. The ads and cars are worthless.


There are a lot of award shows, but the Oscars remains on top. I must say they have a very nice visual hammer.