February 26, 2008
Buzz, UGC, and Advertising at the Oscars (2 of 2)

In a post earlier today, I began a comparison between the Super Bowl and the Oscars and the difference in emphasis of advertisements for each. I wanted to continue that discussion here.

While I referenced some fundamental differences between the two events and their place in American culture, I think the other part of the hype problem can be changed.

Even though two major brands, Dove and MasterCard, incorporated opportunities for interaction in their advertising through a UGC contest where viewers could vote and the announcement of a new promotional contest, I realized I'd never heard of either initiative before.

Before last year's Super Bowl, I had already heard a fair bit of buzz about the Doritos ad contest, even though I'm not in the male 18-49 group that is the key target for most of the advertising around the event. As a member of the female 18-49 age group, however, I would think I'm in MasterCard's target range, and am fairly certain I'm in Dove's.

Oscar ads, in other words, need more buzz around them, not so much to drive viewership but to help ensure the existing viewership is actually interested in watching them and is watching for them.

Perhaps this means connecting them to initiatives introduced during the Super Bowl, making the short period of time between them an asset rather than a liability, possibly holding a contest that begins with the game and ends with the Oscars, or carrying a storyline across the two events.

The problem with this is that it would be tremendously expensive and may not reach the desired demographic effectively, depending on the group targeted.

Another, and probably less expensive, option, would be to find ways to get press and public attention for ads before they air. This is a technique already used by Super Bowl advertisers, some of whom even released their ads online before the game and enabled people to share them.

The Oscars have a glamor factor that football doesn't, something that advertisers could draw more on either in the aesthetic or message of the ads, or by advertising more aspirational and luxury products - case in point, the winning Dove ad had a theme of using the product to simulating a day at the spa.

Super Bowl ads tend to use humor to advertise mostly low cost consumer products, like beer, so why not make the Oscars a venue for clever or thought-provoking spots for higher end items that might also circulate online?

It will be very interesting to see next year, when the writer's strike is no longer a factor, how viewership and advertising change to reflect the desire of advertisers to reach mass audiences through event television like the Super Bowl and the Oscars.

Unfortunately, comments are still down on the blog, but please send me your comments at eleanor@sloan.mit.edu.

Stay tuned...