Commentary

A Few Oscar Ads Took Home Plaudits Of Their Own

The annual Academy Awards extravaganza is not the Super Bowl. But with a rapt, trend-conscious audience and 30-second spots reportedly going for $2.8 million-plus, it’s a glittery runner-up as a showcase for products, services and issues. Last night was no exception.

“Several advertisers offered cinematic spots that went beyond the usual fare, while others used it for unveilings,” recounts Daniel Victor for The New York Times. The Academy Museum of Motion Pictures, which is slated to open in 2019, showed its first commercial (a faux spot for the Overlook Hotel of 'The Shining' fame). Netflix teased  the final season of “House of Cards,” and ABC used the occasion to release the trailer for its “Roseanne” revival.

Meanwhile, Walmart featured the work of three women — Dee Rees, Nancy Meyers and Melissa McCarthy — in one-minute spots featuring its blue shipping boxes. Rees’ effort got the most acclaim.

“Rees, who co-wrote and directed Mudbound, nominated for four awards Sunday night, dreamed up a sci-fi concept in which a young woman is fighting a blob-like monster while an evil commander, played by Best Supporting Actor nominee Mary J. Blige, gives orders. Directed by Best Cinematography nominee Rachel Morrison, the ad’s two action stars turn out to be, in fact, little girls playing make-believe inside a blue Walmart box, and the monster — warning that bedtime is close — is their mother,” writes Time’s Eliza Berman.

“The ad’s sweetness and clever premise weren’t the only things winning over audiences. It also put young black girls at the center of a sci-fi narrative, where they’re rarely situated (with the exception of "A Wrinkle in Time," which opens next week). What’s more, it also casually depicts a black lesbian couple, at home with their kids in an everyday domestic scene — a sight rarely depicted onscreen, especially in front of an audience of millions.”

Another memorable ad of the evening was the first television ad ever for Twitter. 

“The #HereWeAre Poem From Twitter's 2018 Oscars Commercial Is Incredibly Moving,” reads the headline over Lindsay Denninger’s piece for Bustle. “According to Twitter, there has been a 50% increase in talks around women's rights in just the last six months, and this moving commercial seeks to amplify that, to add meaningful dialogue to a conversation that's been worth having for decades. That said, even though Twitter's campaign is meaningful, it doesn't mean that Twitter is without its faults.”

It turns out that “many users took to Twitter to express that, although they were happy about Twitter's new dedication to amplifying women's stories, they think the actual platform could do better to protect women and minorities, who face trolls and doxxing,” Denninger continues. And although poet Denice Frohman is the first reader in the spot, she is never actually given credit for the poem.

It’s not just commercials that were displaying product at the Oscars, of course. Many of those folks parading on the red carpet were, as usual, walking billboards.  

“A brand looking to [outfit] an A-list celebrity is eyeing an average of $1 million for the event,” Allen Adamson, co-founder at Metaforce and the author of Shift Ahead: How the Best Companies Stay Relevant in a Fast Changing World, tells NBC’s Nicole Spector. “Because they don’t want to just sponsor one celebrity, they want to sponsor several, and usually that includes not just the [attire], stylists, and everything else required, but compensation for the celebrities. The brand may also try to get into the swag bag, which is valued at around $100,000.”

But the choice for Most Unusual Placement Gambit last night has to be Kawasaki, which got a lot of play for an $18,000 jet ski.

“Oscars host Jimmy Kimmel jokingly revealed during his monologue that the winner who gives the shortest acceptance speech can win a jet ski — and he got actress Helen Mirren to show off the prize like one of Barker’s Beauties,” writes People’s Julie Mazziotta. “...Mirren and the bright green jet ski were hidden in the back of the Dolby Theatre stage, and she gamely did all the requisite ‘Price is Right’ arm gestures as it sat on display.” 

The headline over Tasha Robinson’s coverage for The Verge calls it “pure genius” and “a solid riff on the usual interminable ‘Oscars too long’ jokes.” The winner of the $18,000 vehicle was "Phantom Thread" costume designer Mark Bridges. 

It won’t fit on the mantel, but it’s nice recompense for keeping a speech to just over 30 seconds.

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