Samsung seeks bigger spotlight with Oscar ad blitz

Smartphone maker will use social media to spread red carpet content

Tim Burton is featured in a Samsung spot.

If it could, Samsung would put one of its smartphones in Oscar’s hand.

Given its massive viewership, only second behind the Super Bowl each year, marketers have long seen the Academy Awards as another high-profile way to reach audiences with their ads.

This year is no different, with Hyundai, J.C. Penney, Coca-Cola, American Express, Grey Poupon, Neutrogena and first timer Coldwell Banker Real Estate among the companies ponying up record ad buys to ABC. So far, 20th Century Fox is the only studio with film promos set to air.

Most of the Alphabet’s Oscar inventory sold out before Christmas, generating the highest level of demand seen in a decade, execs said. The average cost this year is said to fall around $1.7 million per 30-second spot, with some going as high as $1.8 million, according to ad monitoring agency Kantar Media.

Other advertisers include Ameriprise, Anheuser-Busch InBev, Chobani, McDonald’s, Royal Caribbean Intl., Sprint and the U. of Phoenix.

Buying time is one thing; getting your ads noticed is another.

In Samsung Mobile’s case, the company will air six spots during the Oscars, with one running 60 seconds and another 90 seconds, the latter of which features Tim Burton. The remaining four are 30-second spots.

Longtime auto partner Hyundai will still air the most of any advertiser, with seven commercials planned to roll out during the broadcast.

Still Samsung is taking a step further, integrating its Galaxy-branded mobile products throughout the ceremony — a first for an Oscar advertiser — and launching an extensive push across social-media channels, which will offer up exclusive content from the red carpet and backstage.

That element was approved by ABC, with six winners of the network’s “Next Generation of Hollywood” contest given Samsung Galaxy devices to share videos and photos of their Oscar experience. Samsung also gave a select group of social-media influencers access to the E! and ABC red carpets with its devices.

With more people turning to their mobile devices during TV viewing, ABC and the Academy of Arts and Sciences were able to sell more ads on the Oscars.com and Oscars app this year, giving such advertisers as Samsung a larger platform.

Samsung’s stepped-up Oscar effort comes as the company looks to steal away a larger piece of the smartphone biz from Apple — said to be another Oscar advertiser, which would pit the two companies against each other. Samsung’s overall campaign continues its “The Next Big Thing in Business” slogan, a riff on Apple’s product launches.

Competition is heating up between the two as Samsung overtook Apple as the world’s top maker of smart connected devices last year, a category that which includes smartphones and tablets, according to research group IDC. Smartphones made up 60% of the 1.2 billion devices shipped, up 46% over 2011. Samsung’s share of the market grew from 12.3% in 2011, to 20.8% in 2012, while Apple’s rose to 18.2% from 16.3%.

Samsung’s new episodic ads revolve around a small studio behind the fictional zombie-themed “Unicorn Apocalypse” game and the various ways its quirky employees turn to their Samsung devices to launch the title.

Burton, whose “Frankenweenie” is nominated for animated feature, is featured in the final spot of the campaign as a director who wants to adapt “Unicorn Apocalypse” into a movie.

Samsung said it chose the Oscars to launch the campaign because the kudocast is another highly watched and culturally relevant event, after the Super Bowl, during which it also advertised.

Last year’s ceremony was watched by 39.3 million viewers in the U.S. , according to Nielsen, up 4% from 2011. That still pales next to the more than 108 million who tuned into the Super Bowl on CBS, during which 30-second spots went for $4 million.

Kantar Media said the top-dollar price for an Oscar ad this year represents a “full pricing recovery following the impact of the recent recession.” ABC devoted 9:42 minutes of airtime per hour to commercials during last year’s broadcast, up from 9:05 minutes in 2011.