Skewing Old, AmEx And Caddy Get Aspirational At The Oscars

There were no Samsung moments at this year’s Academy Awards — the jokes and gags handed to host Neil Patrick Harris tended more toward the self-conscious than the selfie — although American Express, Cadillac and Samsung itself spent valiantly to create some buzz that would reverberate beyond the spots themselves. 

Prices were at an all-time high with the average of $1.95 million reflecting an 8% increase over last year, as Meg James reports in the Los Angeles Times, and inventory sold out relatively fast. “The rush to buy up ads was an accomplishment because the overall TV advertising market has been sluggish this season,” James observes.



But the Oscars, like the Super Bowl, are generally watched live, taking the fast-forward button out of play, and they tend to get people — and brands, as Ad Agelive-captured — tweeting. 

“Even the slightest reflected glory from Hollywood’s stardust can have a dramatic impact on a brand or product. Revenues generated by the Academy Awards rose from $93.7 million to $97.3 million in 2014, according to the academy’s annual report,” reportFinancial Times’ Shannon Bond and Matthew Garrahan.

American Express, which lost an antitrust suit in the Eastern District of New York last week, featured celebrities who have “overcome the odds” and succeeded. 

“People think we’re just a brand of when you quote, unquote ‘arrive,’” Marie Devlin, SVP of global advertising at American Express, tells the Wall Street Journal’s Steven Perlberg. “We very much want to be with people along their journey through life. It’s not about a final destination.”

In one spot, actress Mindy Kaling talks about how, when she arrived in Hollywood, she was told, “They don’t put girls who look like me on TV.” It was suggested to the “Unlikely Leading Lady” that “maybe you should be the best friend, or the sidekick.”

In another execution, Nick Woodman talks about “his journey to creating GoPro from his first failed tech endeavor to what he learned from the experience.”

The Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin, remembers starting out as a shy kid of 9 who “would have to hold on to the microphone for confidence” when she started singing solo at her church.

Perhaps the most compelling spot features Natalie Young, the owner of a successful restaurant, Eat, in downtown Las Vegas. “My addiction destroyed everything,” it begins. “I lost my family, my partner and my job.”

“The inspirational stories are a way to celebrate this belief that our card members have,” Devlin tells the WSJ’s Perlberg. “They believe that their hard work is going to pay off.”’s Jeanine Skowronski points out that “American Express is no stranger to celebrity endorsers. Beyonce, Ellen Degeneres and Tina Fey have all identified as ‘cardmembers.’” 

Then, too, there was the dress made out of Amex Gold Cards that costume designer Lizzy Gardiner wore to the 1994 Oscars.

“Of course, research suggests a celebrity's presence does not guarantee an ad campaign's success,” Skowronski writes. “The emotional component of AmEx's new ads, on the other hand, is likely to resonate with viewers who consistently demonstrate a penchant for commercials that tug at the heartstrings.” 

“The aim of the campaign, created by Ogilvy & Mather, is to be aspirational and open up the brand to a ‘new generation” of customers, Lara O’Reilly writes on Business Insider.

It’s not the only venerable brand trying to skew younger.

Cadillac’s “Dare Greatly,” which stems from a speech Theodore Roosevelt gave at the Sorbonne more than a century ago, is another notable campaign that broke last night. Barbara Lippert critiqued the spots in her “Mad Blog” last week, writing that although they are “art school beautiful,” they lack a “genuine story.” She concludes: “… there’s an absence of substance, in addition to the over-stylized absence of metal.”

Researcher-storyteller” Brené Brown, who has written and TED-talked on the “power of vulnerability,” has also been heavily influenced by that quote of Roosevelt’s.

“When I read that quote from Theodore Roosevelt, I just burst into tears,” she tells Sounds True publisher Tami Simon in a podcast posted last week. “Because three things hit me like a ton of lead. … The third thing that really was transformational for me personally is from that moment forward … basically is this: if you are not a person who is in the arena getting your ass kicked on a regular basis, I am not interested in your feedback. Period.”

Consumer products, alas, are not afforded the same luxuries as academics. We’ll soon enough see if consumers buy into Cadillac’s repositioning.

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