At $1.6 to $1.7 mil for 30 seconds, ad rate still lower than 2008 peak

Now that the Super Bowl is over, the Oscars are rolling out the red carpet for advertisers — who can still buy their way into the upcoming kudocast at a discounted rate vs. recent years.

With ABC charging marketers between $1.6 million and $1.7 million per spot this year, the average price of a 30-second ad during the 84th Academy Awards is up only modestly vs. the past two years.

The peak was 2008, when ABC demanded $1.8 million per spot. The lowest pricetag was in 2009, when the recession forced rates down to around $1.3 million. Last year’s spots went for nearly $1.7 million, earning the network $74.4 million. (This year’s Super Bowl spots went for between $3.5 million and $4 million.)

A number of marketers are returning to promote their products during the Feb. 26 show, including these marquee sponsors: carmaker Hyundai, department store chain JC Penney and the Coca-Cola Co.

Last year, 40% of the total ad revenue generated by the Oscarcast came from those three companies, according to research group Kantar Media. Hyundai and JC Penney are each expected to spend more than $10 million during this year’s show.

Hyundai has been the Oscars’ exclusive auto sponsor since 2009, and will have a major presence again this year. JC Penney has been a continuous sponsor since 2002 and will use this year’s broadcast to promote its rebranding as JCP. Both companies received the most exposure during the commercial breaks, with three minutes and 30 seconds of airtime total.

McDonald’s has appeared during the show every year since 1992, and American Express since 1993. But a number of first-timers are also expected when ABC reveals its list of advertisers on Wednesday. During last year’s show, 31% of Oscar’s advertisers were first-timers, such as Amazon, Best Buy and Living Social, Kantar Media said.

It’s been harder for newcomers to grab some of ABC’s commercial time, given that the network and Academy limit the amount of available ad time and that marketers with existing spot commitments haven’t been willing to give up their slots.

Over the past decade, the show has consistently averaged 8-10 minutes per hour of commercials, a figure that includes promotional plugs for ABC’s shows. By contrast, the Super Bowl averages 13-14 minutes per hour.

The recession did open some doors in 2009, enabling Hyundai to replace General Motors as the Oscars’ car partner.

For its biggest advertisers, the Oscarcast has become a high-profile platform, according to Kantar Media, given its female-dominated audience. In addition, the telecast often attracts an upscale demographic, some of which is made up of people who don’t usually tune in to primetime TV.

As with the Super Bowl, most viewers watch the Oscars live, adding an attractive DVR-resistant spotlight for brands.

And, in contrast to the Super Bowl, whose lineup of commercials was populated with at least eight car companies, for example, the Oscars enable marketers more time to stand out on TV and through ABC’s digital Oscar-related platforms.

One concern for the network and ad buyers this year might be audience tune-in.

Ratings for last year’s show came in as the second smallest in history. An estimated 37.9 million viewers tuned in last year, according to Nielsen, down from 2010, when 41.7 million watched. The ratings for the kudocast have slipped 23% over the past decade and 15% from five years ago, Kantar Media said.

But the unique and durable platform presented by the Academy Awards is still formidable, according to Kantar.

“Big-scale, high-visibility television events continue to draw large audiences, and the Academy Awards comes just a few weeks after the most widely watched Super Bowl in history,” said Jon Swallen, senior VP of research at Kantar Media North America. “While coverage is still centered around the network TV broadcast, digital platforms and online content are offering additional ways to target brand messages at an engaged audience of Oscar enthusiasts.”

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