Oscar Ads Gear Up To Steal Star Sparkle

Marketers putting the finishing touches on ads scheduled to air Sunday during Hollywood's big night are working overtime to turn more heads and leave a deeper impression than the celebrities walking the red carpet decked in glitz and glam.

After all, brands paid big bucks to advertise during the 80th Annual Academy Awards. American Express, Coca-Cola, General Motors, J.C. Penney, L'Oreal, Mars, MasterCard, McDonald's, Procter & Gamble and Unilever shelled out an average $1.8 million for each 30-second spot on Oscar's big night.

GM will provide celebrities with "green" rides to the red carpet in more than 75 chauffeur-driven environmentally friendly vehicles such as the GMC Yukon Hybrid, the Chevy Equinox Fuel Cell and the FlexFuel E85 ethanol-compatible GMC Yukon.

The GMC, Cadillac and Saturn divisions also have advertisements running during the show. GMC scheduled two spots during the ABC telecast. One 30-second GMC ad was still under construction as of Tuesday, and the other is the 60-second "Why Push" spot highlighting the Yukon Hybrid that ran last month during the Super Bowl.

Cadillac secured two 30-second spots, one for "Cup Holders" and the other for "Kate Walsh Turn You On," featuring the Cadillac CTS. "Saturn will run a 60-second ad (still being finalized) during the awards show, and in the pre-show both GMC and Cadillac will run 30-second spots," says Ryndee Carney, a GM spokeswoman. "We have advertised during the Academy Awards telecast for the past 12 years."

American Express's one 60-second spot created by ad agency Ogilvy features Diane von Furstenberg at home and in her studio. The campaign, "Are you a Cardmember?," highlights actual stories from members. Although the spot debuts on this year's Oscar telecast, it will run during other "fashion-relevant" times this year, according to Leslie Berland, director of corporate communications for the card company.

MasterCard plans to debut a 60-second spot for its "Priceless" campaign launched earlier this month in print and online. The promotion aims to build a connection with affluent consumers who search the Internet for life's "priceless" experiences. The campaign instantly awards consumers who find winning envelopes in select Condé Nast publications and Sotheby's Preview magazine with one of three one-of-a-kind experiences related to art, dining and travel. Several other spots will also run.

Unilever's Dove tied the Web to its television campaign by creating an online contest for its Cream Oil Body wash to attract women, who make up 60% of the 40 million viewers. The promotion asks women to create a body-wash commercial and upload it to dovecreamoil.com. More than 3,500 entries were whittled down to five semifinalists, who will attend the Academy Awards. Viewers can vote via text message or at Oscar.com. Dove will announce the winner at an ad break during the show.

Bertolli, another Unilever brand, has an Oscar spot running that highlights a contest hosted by celebrity Chief Rocco DiSpirito, who asked consumers to submit videos that describe a romantic night at home. The winning story uploaded to bertollinightsin.com gets turned into a movie, complete with theater premiere.

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