Marketers Get Their Nickels' Worth On Oscar Night

It was a fit night for new twists by old comfort brands like Kraft’s Miracle Whip, JC Penney and Johnson’s Baby. The Oscars telecast featured a 63-year-old host, a Best Picture that’s silent and in black and white, an 82-year old Best Supporting Actor and a Best Actress who herself said something like “enough already.”

The spot that wins our newly annual “Huh, Did I Really See That?” Award has to go to Kraft Macaroni & Cheese, which is celebrating its diamond jubilee. A dad appropriates some Mac & Cheese from his young son’s plate, only to have his dad take half of it with some deft fork work.

“Hey, c’mon,” says dad.

“What? I’m been skimming Mac & Cheese for 75 years,” replies gramps gruffly.



“I’m only 45.”

“I have another family.”





What, indeed. Was that really from Kraft?

In the words of one of the infants in a Johnson’s baby spot that reassures moms that they are loved and appreciated: “You’re not perfect, but you’re trying.” And so it goes with the Academy Awards. I suspect that I’m not alone in my resolve to spend my Sunday night in February more productively every year only to get sucked in by catching a whiff of it in the opening montage. Then, it’s like a sheet of freshly baked Toll House cookies. You know you should stop but you can’t.

“So just why are so many marketers willing to pay record ad rates -- near $1.7 million per 30-second slot -- to go Hollywood?” asksUSA Today’s Bruce Horovitz. “It could be the company that Oscar keeps,” he replies to himself.

Despite viewership dropping 23% over the past 10 years and the second-smallest ratings in history last year, “marketers know that on ABC's Sunday night Oscar broadcast, they'll get ‘an engaged audience of Oscar enthusiasts,’” as Jon Swallen, senior VP of research at Kantar Media, tells Horovitz.

Oscars’ viewership “usually tumbles when those getting the nod for the top award are ‘arty’ films targeted at older audiences, but ratings go up when nominees are blockbusters tailored for the masses,” as Brian Steinberg points out in Ad Age. This was an “arty” year.

“Advertisers also appreciate that the program tilts toward females,” Steinberg writes. “Hyundai intends to talk about such qualities as luxury and design,” Steve Shannon, VP marketing at Hyundai Motor America tells him, “or the ‘quietness and serenity’ of the Azera cabin -- attributes that might appeal to women slightly more than men.”

Truth is, I don’t remember the spots at all. Must have been taking those cookies out of the oven. A spot for Diet Coke that showed it behind the scenes –- literally -– on Hollywood sets was different enough from traditional soda advertising to capture my attention, however.

Costing an average of $1.7 million for 30 seconds compared with $3.5 million for the Super Bowl, “the Academy Awards are already the winner for best Madison Avenue bargain in a leading role. The audience is much smaller, too, of course, but that can be an advantage,” Huffington Post’s Ron Dicker writes.

"I always prefer to cater to a smaller amount of people who have a stronger tie to my brand," marketing consultant Peter Shankman tells Dicker.

“Programming like this isn’t just about volume,” Beth Hirschhorn, chief marketing officer for MetLife told the New York Times’ Stuart Elliott the other day. “It’s about how deeply engaged consumers are while watching. “Many viewers tune in and watch from start to finish.” When that happens, she added, “research tells us that message recall and comprehension are stronger.”

In Met Life’s case, Lucy and the rest of the Peanuts gang find the cheapest Met Life term life insurance premium of $14 a month tad expensive. She tells the account executive it “should be 5 cents.”

“Everything can’t be 5 cents,” he concludes with a slight touch of exasperation.

The lowly nickel also merited a mention in one of the five Ellen DeGeneres spots for JC Penney, which may not drive the hordes to stampede its doors this morning but were worth a few chuckles.

"Often referred to as the Super Bowl for women -- and renowned as Hollywood’s biggest night of fashion -- the Oscars continue to be a key platform for us to reach our customers," JC Penney spokeswoman Kate Coultas tells Dicker.

In “Western Coupons,” Ellen is transported back to the Wild West, where she puts a pair of 5-cent jeans on the counter at a general store and reaches for her coupon.

It’s a bit of a stretch to make an “everyday low prices” pitch, but the entire evening is a bit of a stretch in many ways, isn’t it? That’s our nickel’s worth, at any rate.

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