Oscar: Sealed with a blitz?

Academy amps promos for March 5 kudocast

The Grammys stumbled in the ratings; the Golden Globes barely tread water.

With that in mind, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences and ABC are spending unprecedented sums on cable, print, radio and outdoor promos for the March 5 kudocast.

That’s probably a good thing, as this year’s Oscar lineup is filled with nominees who are not exactly household names.

But Acad prexy Sid Ganis denies the revved-up promos this year are a reaction to a nominee list that, while worthy of attention, would fit neatly at the Independent Spirit Awards.

“We’re doing what any good marketing organization would do to get its message out,” Ganis said. “Of course, we want the ratings, so we’re pumping it.”

Oscarcast marketing director Beth Harris added with a laugh, “It’s too elaborate a campaign to throw together this fast,” since the nominees were only unveiled last month.

Since 1998 (the year of “Titanic”), when the Oscars reached 55.2 million viewers, the ratings for Hollywood award shows have been remarkably uneven.

The Academy Awards, which advertisers dub the “Super Bowl for Women,” rates the best of any kudocast. The going rate for advertisers who bought inventory on this year’s Oscarcast was north of $1.6 million for a 30-second ad, an increase from the previous year.

“The Oscars are probably the No. 2 event out there for viewers in terms of what ads they’re going to pay attention to,” said Scott Haugenes, senior VP and group director of national broadcast at media buying firm Initiative. “Recall on ads in Oscars is really high. Viewers pay attention to it.” Advertisers will create entirely new ads for the event, he added.

But ratings for last year’s Oscarcast were down about 5% from the previous year, with average viewership of about 41.5 million. Earlier this month, CBS’ Grammy Awards was trounced by “American Idol.” Just 15.1 million people watched the Grammys, while 28.3 million tuned into the Fox reality juggernaut.

Harris, now in her third year as director of marketing for the Oscars, won’t divulge details of finances due to Acad policy and the fact that the org “commingles” its ad plans with ABC, making breakdowns more difficult.

But starting this week, Oscar is being touted with “cable synergy support,” including ad buys on such ABC-owned cablers as ABC Family and ESPN.

Acad prexy Ganis said that, with cable, “you can target pretty well” the various demographics. Acad is specifically targeting the 18-34 demo with spots on MTV and VH1, along with buys on Oxygen, Bravo and Style, and targeting film lovers with ads on AMC.

The ads will increase in the week before the March 5 ceremony, with the March 3 weekend and day-of ads hitting as a blitz.

The emphasis of the promo campaign is not on the contestants but on the emotion of the Academy Awards.

Harris been working on the campaign for a year. “The show is about art and accomplishment, and that’s what we’re promoting,” she said. TV and radio spots focus on star presenters and past Oscar moments with the tagline “Hold onto your dream.”

For years, the Oscars were advertised in L.A. via trailers in movie theaters, ABC promos and added touches like banners attached to L.A. city streets. This year the banners have been replaced in the outdoor plan with billboards, tall walls and bus-shelter ads in L.A., New York and Philadelphia.

In terms of cable and radio, Oscar buys will include a “one-week flight” — since Harris said that’s the most sensible and cost-efficient way to spend money — that will increase on the March 3 weekend and lots of spots on the day of the Oscarcast.

Acad also has been doing promotions with kudocast sponsors, including Diet Coke and United Airlines. While the sponsor promotion is one of the Acad’s biggest ever, it’s more reserved than cross-promos tied with events like the Super Bowl.

Acad also will deal with the top 31 U.S. radio markets with “roadblock spots” — i.e., a spot that runs at 8 a.m., for example, on each station, and that will run each hour on March 5. There will be a similar plan on TV.

Ganis said the Academy’s board “agreed to be aggressive in augmenting the great work that ABC does. The Academy is now a partner in the marketing. We’re buying network cable, outdoor, spot radio and network radio, a lot of print ads. We are branded in a way that few other shows are. People notice.”

And the Academy-ABC marketing team can breathe a sigh of relief. ABC’s March 5 Oscar telecast will air opposite crime drama repeats and young, urban movies, including “8 Mile” on the WB.

And Fox is airing the broadcast premiere of “Bad Boys 2,” meaning there will be no Academy Awards faceoff with “American Idol.”

In the laws of the Hollywood jungle, it’s OK to counterprogram, but you don’t pull out your big guns against Oscar.

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