By Barry Janoff
February 22, 2016: While The Big Short, Bridge of Spies, Brooklyn, Mad Max: Fury Road, The Martian, The Revenant, Room and Spotlight vie for the Best Picture at the 88th Academy Awards, a group of marketers will vie for the attention, and ultimately the dollars, of viewers, fans and consumers.
Samsung, Kohl's, GM, AmEx and Coca-Cola will be among those companies on the broadcast roster this Sunday (Feb. 28) when ABC presents the show, hosted by Chris Rock, from the Dolby Theatre at the Hollywood & Highland Center in Los Angeles.
An average of 36.6 million viewers tuned in for all or part of the Oscars last year, when Neil Patrick Harris was host and the Best Picture trophy was awarded to Birdman.
That was a drop of 14% from 2014 when an average of 43.7 million viewers watched host Ellen DeGeneres (Best Picture: 12 Years A Slave) and the lowest since 2009, according to industry analysts.
Despite this, added to the controversy regarding the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences having selected a group of nominees in the major categories that includes no minorities — the average cost of a 30-second spot during this year’s ceremony is expected to be a record $2 million, and the total ad spend expected to exceed last year's record $110 million, according to research, marketing and consulting firm Kantar Media, NY, with the figure potentially topping $120 million.
Ad spend for the Oscars has grown every year since 2009, when it was $68 million — which actually represented a drop from $80 million in 2007 and $81 million in 2008.
In 2010, ad spend was $70 million, $74 million in 2011, $82 million in 2012 and $88 million in 2013, according to Kantar.
The total ad spend of $110 million during last year's Oscars telecast, when the average cost of a 30-second spot surpassed $1.8 million, also puts the Academy Awards ahead of two other high-profile entertainment shows, the Golden Globes and the Grammys.
According to Kantar, total ad spend for the Golden Globes was $42 million, with the average for a 30-second spot $577,000.
Total ad spend for the Grammy Awards was $75 million, with the average cost for a 30-second spot $942,000.
That still puts all three behind the super bowl of TV programming, the Super Bowl. On CBS, during Super Bowl 50, 30-second spots on Feb. 7 were going for upward of $5 million, according to Kantar, which also reported that 62 in-game spots fettered 53 different advertisers (owned by 46 different parent companies) covering some 39 minutes of air time.
According to Kantar, as host of the awards ceremony, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences "controls and limits the amount of commercial time in the broadcast."
The total amount of network ad time from paying sponsors has increased by nearly 25% during the past five years, reaching a record 29 minutes, 45 seconds in 2015.
The 2016 telecast is expected to equal or tie that. There will also be 5-6 minutes of promotional spots from ABC and 7-8 minutes of ads sold by local ABC stations throughout the show, brining the commercial total to 42-44 minutes, or about 12 minutes per hour for a 3 ½ hour live telecast.
That's up from 24 minutes in 2011 and 25 minutes, 30 seconds in 2012, per Kantar.
From 2011-15, the top five parent company sponsors in the Academy Awards spent $206 million in ad time during the telecasts, accounting for 46% of total ad revenue.
Kantar said that Samsung led with about $60 million in ad spend.
JC Penny was in for about $50 million. Hyundai, which was part of the first three of those telecasts, spent about $35 million.
The Top Five also includes AmEx at about $31 million; and Coca-Cola, which in four Oscar telecasts spent just under $30 million.
American Express has appeared during every Oscars telecast since 1993.
For 2016, JC Penney has been replaced by Kohl’s as exclusive retail sponsor.
Hyundai was the exclusive auto sponsor from 2009-2013, with General Motors taking the category in 2014.
Although not in the Top Five ad spend, McDonald’s has appeared in the program every year since 1992, per Kantar.
In 2015, six parent companies ran commercials in the Academy Awards, Golden Globes, Grammy Awards and Super Bowl: Comcast, Discover Financial Services, Mars, McDonalds, Softbank (owner of Sprint) and Walt Disney.
Among the factors determining TV viewership for the Oscars is star power.
According to a recent Harris Poll, the favorite actors in 2015 as named by people in the U.S. were, in order, Tom Hanks, Johnny Depp, Denzel Washington, John Wayne, Harrison Ford, Sandra Bullock, Jennifer Lawrence, Clint Eastwood, Brad Pitt and Julia Roberts.
Of that group, only Lawrence (Best Actress: Joy) is up for an Oscar. And Wayne, who passed away in 1979, last appeared in a movie in 1976's The Shootist.
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