×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Some Oscars Ads Might Strike a Political Chord

When Hyatt returns to advertising on primetime TV this Sunday night after many years, it will do so during ABC’s Oscars telecast and it will offer a message that might prove soothing to a viewership still polarized by a contentious political election: What the world needs now is love, sweet love.

That refrain, crooned by singer Andra Day, will offer a new view of Hyatt and a new take on the old 1960s Burt Bacharach chestnut. And the ad, crafted by Interpublic Group’s MullenLowe and shot in Spain, Morocco and Thailand and filled with scenes of people of different nationalities helping each other during encounters around the world, might be taken as a prescription for a populace continuing to grapple with issues of culture and race as the Trump administration cracks down on illegal immigrants present in the U.S.

The themes for Hyatt’s spot were in place well before the recent U.S. election, said Maryam Banikarim, Hyatt’s chief marketing officer, in an interview. The spot is part of a launch of a global campaign that aims to burnish the hotelier’s presence in the U.S. as well as places as far as India and China. “It really was about understanding and what understanding can afford people,” she said, while acknowledging the commercial surfaces “in an interesting cultural moment that will force people to look at this in a different light.”

The annual Oscars awards-fest can naturally veer into controversy, as actors, directors and other creatives use their award speeches to call attention to favorite causes or to express outrage. The ads usually provide a tension-free counterpoint by playing up the glamour and luxury that are so much a part of the event. Just as Fox’s recent broadcast of Super Bowl LI featured ads that touched upon themes that struck more of a chord for an audience viewing them through the prism of recent politics, so too might ABC’s telecast of the event.

New York Times Co., a first-time Oscars advertiser, will highlight the need for truthful, independent reporting in a chaotic time. Anheuser-Busch InBev, meanwhile, has tapped actor Matt Damon to highlight a partnership between its Stella Artois and Water.org to provide access to clean water in developing nations. “We can be the generation remembered for ending the global water crisis once and for all,” he says.

Madison Avenue has a reason to stand out during the Oscars. The event typically draws one of TV’s bigger crowds, and the cost of putting a pitch in front of them – last year’s event drew 34.3 million people, an eight-year low – is significant. ABC sought at least $2 million for a 30-second ad in the event, according to media buyers and other people familiar with the tone of negotiations, and even pressed for as much as $2.5 million in some talks. The average price in 2016 hovered around $1.72 million, according to Kantar, a tracker of ad spending, compared with $1.31 million in recession-wracked 2009.

“Live TV is still a place that brings communities together,” said Banikarim.  Having a broad group of viewers was critical to Hyatt’s strategy, she added. “We don’t want people to watch in isolation.” The company will launch a new loyalty program on March 1, and being able to tout its new message in a big-audience event was seen as crucial: The marketer wants viewers who see the spot to “feel like you belong,” she added.

Some advertisers will stay close to more traditional themes of glitz. The Diamond Producers Association intends to air what it says will be a “cinematic story” that burnishes themes of “love, passion and connection.” Others hope to stand out by supporting some of the ancillary content that surrounds the broadcast. AT&T will sponsor a showcase of Oscars “musical moments” on the event’s website and is partnering with NBCUniversal’s E! cable network to deliver concurrent 360-degree feeds of red-carpet action.

No matter the marketing goal, advertisers of all stripes recognize the Oscars TV audience is an increasingly unique one.  “It’s a high-profile appointment-viewing television program,” noted David Rubin, senior vice president and head of brand for The New York Times. “We wanted to be in a place where people are watching together, talking together, talking virtually.”

More TV

  • Miramax President of TV Lauren Whitney

    Miramax President of TV Lauren Whitney Exits to Join Spyglass Media Group

    Lauren Whitney, the president of television for Miramax, is leaving the company, Variety has learned. She will now become the president of television for Spyglass Media Group effective April 1. The news comes less than two years after Whitney first joined Miramax. There, she oversaw the studio’s television development, in addition to “Spy City,” produced by [...]

  • Tim Cook Oprah Winfrey Steven Spielberg

    Apple Sits Out This Emmy Season, but Get Ready for a Frenzy of Contenders in 2020

    Apple won’t be entering the Emmy race this year — but get ready for 2020. The tech giant’s not-so-surprise launch of its new Apple TV+ video service on Monday included a hefty roster of top producing and acting talent that will immediately make the service an awards contender when it launches in the fall. That [...]

  • Oprah Apple TV Plus

    Apple's Cavalcade of Stars Sets High Expectations (Column)

    Apple’s March 25 conference announcing various new services — including their upcoming passel of video content — was heavy on grandeur and light on specifics. Company CEO Tim Cook described the company’s move into television as part of an ongoing commitment not merely to diversion and customer satisfaction but to social change. “Apple has always [...]

  • Art Malik2017 Costa Book of The

    Hannah Simone's ABC Pilot Casts Art Malik in Lead Role (EXCLUSIVE)

    Hannah Simone’s comedy pilot at ABC has cast one of its lead roles. Variety has learned exclusively that Art Malik has signed on to star opposite Simone in the single-camera comedy. In the project, Hannah (Simone) and her Indian-American immigrant father Sid (Malik) have always been close, but after she admits to herself that she’s [...]

  • Apple TV Plus Reese Witherspoon Jennifer

    Apple Unveils First Look Footage From Its Original Shows (Watch)

    At a special event in Cupertino, Apple unveiled its Apple TV+ streaming service, and with it a short clip of some footage from its slate of upcoming original shows. One of the main originals teased was “The Morning Show,” a series which “offers an inside look at the lives of the people who help America [...]

  • 'Pretty Little Liars' presentation

    I. Marlene King Exits Warner Bros. TV for Overall Deal at 20th Century Fox

    I. Marlene King has signed a new multi-year deal at 20th Century Fox Television, exiting her longtime studio home of Warner Bros. Television. King will develop, write, produce, and direct new projects for network, cable, and streaming under the new deal via her Long Lake Media banner. Long Lake’s executive vice president of development Lauren [...]

  • 9-1-1: Angela Bassett. CR: Mathieu Young

    '9-1-1' and 'The Resident' Renewed for Third Seasons at Fox

    Both “9-1-1” and “The Resident” will be returning for third seasons on Fox, Variety has learned. The news comes as the two shows, which are paired together on Monday nights, are on course to finish with solid ratings in their sophomore seasons. “’9-1-1 redefined’ what a procedural series can be, consistently delivering edge-of-your-seat emergencies, mixed with emotional [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content