Crystal Shines At Oscars, But How Did Madison Avenue Do?

There aren’t many programs that offer debate fodder like the Oscar-cast. Which film or actor got robbed? Did the host blow it? Which winner was the most gracious? Who got the tux right (and yes, the dresses)?

Some brief thoughts: Billy Crystal shined as host, blending a true appreciation for movie magic with hilarious one-liners playing off the zeitgeist (maybe he had good writers, but delivery counts for a lot).

Some of his humdingers:

--“We’re here at the beautiful Chapter 11 theater.” (The Kodak name is being stripped due to bankruptcy.)

--People watch movies on their phones now? “Give me the big screen anytime … my iPad.”

--Michael Douglas was “occupying Wall Street before it was cool.”

Moving past Billy to two other thoughts:

--Bradley Cooper’s tux was way too shiny for such a superstar. (Was that a last minute rental?)

--Meryl Streep’s humility after winning was touching.  

As for fairness in the winners and losers with the statues, leave that to the pros. Let’s consider some of the ups and downs through a Madison Avenue prism.

Crystal got into the act, poking fun at the audience make-up. The humor emanated from last year’s abysmal attempt to use younger hosts to bring in younger viewers.

So, Justin Bieber showed up in a skit with Billy promising to help land 18-to-24 year-olds. And later, with so many older nominees such as Christopher Plummer, Crystal said: “We’re going to slam the 78-to-84 group because they spend."

Advertisers did spend. Reports suggested ABC collected about $1.7 million per spot.

Some thoughts on what the dough did:

--JCP -- or is it still JCPenney? – had a great night with its spots featuring Ellen DeGeneres as a time traveler, from ancient Rome to the 1950s. The wittiest one jabbed at the ludicrousness of all those prices ending in 99 cents. Apparently, the practice traces back to at least Victorian England. Ellen surfaced there and tried to buy a hat. Told the cost is 14 pounds and 99 pence, she smelled deception. “So, it’s 15 pounds? … Are you trying to trick me?” she says to a clerk.

--American Express deserves credit. Much of the buzz appears to be around a spot featuring super-chef Thomas Keller establishing his high-profile restaurant in Yountville, Calif. But, AmEx's first ad about helping small businesses was patriotic and uplifting. “When we all come together … amazing things happen,” one store owner says. Extra credit for paying tribute to Washington eatery Ben’s Chili Bowl.

--Remember when Google had little interest in TV advertising? Just before it aired a Super Bowl ad, top executive Eric Schmidt tweeted that “hell has indeed frozen over.” Now, Google runs some of the most heart-warming spots on TV, including Sunday’s for Google+. The ad featured a new dad who couldn’t stop photographing his baby. But he loses his phone and fears all pictures are lost. Turns out, Google+ allowed him to download them as a backup. Take that, Facebook.

--Hell will freeze over when advertisers stop turning to exceedingly cute shots of babies as a creative core. The Google+ ad offered one after another. Later, an emotional Johnson & Johnson branding spot featured a baby talking to mom and telling her how much he loved her.

--Hyundai’s run of spots had a couple of hits. There was a great one of a father struggling to cook dinner and taking instructions from his wife over the phone. He asks when she’s coming home. Turns out, she’s in the driveway enjoying peace in her car. “Did we make it a little too comfortable?” the voiceover asks. Then, in the last ad break, a spot nicely ridiculed the winners' eagerness to thank just about everyone.

--Diet Coke thought its “not all stars appear on screen” spot was good enough to run twice. It was right. The ad was a tribute to the behind-the-scenes work it takes to make a film, from writers to stuntmen to costume experts. Messages about Diet Coke offering a little fuel to keep the process going were nicely subtle. And the kicker was perfect: all the work pays off as a moviegoer sips on a fountain drink in the theater. 

--It would be nice if the cliché that the Oscars are the “Super Bowl for women” just went away. Nonetheless, some marketers seem to believe it’s such a ripe opportunity to reach women that just throwing up some banal creative works. Spots for Splenda and Simply Orange juice seemed to be recycled from a daytime talk or game show. Tide looked to take advantage of a female audience and did a much better job with a lively ad that looked to offer some “pop” – literally.

--When will wireless companies do more to make their ads stand out? Remember when Alec Baldwin’s “30 Rock” character said he worked for GE/NBC/Universal/Kmart. Is there now a Sprint/AT&T/Verizon monolith? Carriers should be banned from touting how much “G” they offer and might be wise to stay away from talking about unlimited data plans (unless it’s with the iPad). Sprint and AT&T were the only two in the Oscars, but there's a feeling people might say in a survey that it was Verizon and T-Mobile.

--Oprah made a play to remind people she’s still on TV. Local spots in New York and Los Angeles (maybe elsewhere) plugged her OWN network and show “Oprah’s Next Chapter.” It’s no secret the network has not met expectations. Here’s a symbol how much further it has to go: the Oscar ad pointed people to a Web site to find out where exactly the network is on the dial.

--Not sure what Dodge was doing during a local break in New York. Hyundai has exclusivity in the auto category for the national broadcast. But, if women indeed dominate the Oscar audience, it was jarring to see a tough-guy ad for a Ram Truck. Also, Acura ran that already-tired Seinfeld-Leno spot, which debuted when the New York Giants beat New England in a big game a few weeks back.

You know, the Super Bowl for men.

Tags: television
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2 comments about "Crystal Shines At Oscars, But How Did Madison Avenue Do? ".
  1. Patricia Friedlander from Word-Up! , February 27, 2012 at 9:39 p.m.
    Some brief thoughts: Billy Crystal shined as host, blending a true appreciation for movie magic with hilarious one-liners playing off the zeitgeist (maybe he had good writers, but delivery counts for a lot). Were we on the same planet, watching the same Oscar telecast?
  2. Rob Frydlewicz from RAF Consulting , February 27, 2012 at 10:19 p.m.
    Perhaps I'm in the minority but I recorded the telecast - not to skip the commercials, but to fast forward through the tired opening Billy Crystal always does as well as anytime I saw his botoxed mug appear on the screen.