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The 86th Academy Awards being broadcast this Sunday, March 2nd often ranks as the second-most viewed TV event of the year. Last year viewership was up about 3% Y-O-Y. Seth McFarland was host and the Academy’s dream for younger viewers came true: +19% in the coveted 18 to 49 demos. This year Ellen DeGeneres will host. This will be her second time.

ABC sold out their 30-second ad spots pretty quickly, with prices upwards of $1.8 million. One can never be sure whether that price-value equation and increased viewership is driven by who’s hosting or the mix of nominated movies and stars, but it’s probably a little of both. However you do the calculations, you also have to factor in the X-factor power of a live telecast in the digital age, which provides advertisers an opportunity to leverage a live show and some sort of social media and mobile outreach synergy in an attempt to engage viewers.

Attaining real brand engagement for the sponsors, of course, is more than just identifying an audience and running funny/exciting/sexy/emotional commercials, no matter who hosts, no matter how socially networked the viewers, and no matter how much they share, tweet or “like” the ads. If you want to see ROI, you don’t want to know the audience was amused, you want to know they were engaged. And much as some marketers would like to believe it, the Academy Awards, sometimes called the “Super Bowl for Women,” has not yet reached the lofty Super Bowl heights where people tune in to see what the advertisers are doing as much as (or sometimes more) for the show itself. No, people tune in to the Academy Awards looking for answers to four questions:

  1. Who’s on the Red Carpet?
  2. What are they wearing?
  3. How’s the new host going to open the show?
  4. Who’s going to win? 
For advertisers, there’s really only one question that should matter to them:

  1. What did I get for my $1.8 million + production costs?

We can’t comment about those first 4 questions, but we can about that last one. Using a validated process we quantify how exposure to the advertising on a particular show causes the viewer to “see” the brand as better meeting the expectations they hold for the Category Ideal in which the brand competes. You know, see if they were engaged or not, and not just that they saw the commercial. Or even liked it. This can be done predictively for virtually any marketing or advertising opportunity, but in this case we were looking at whether advertising the brand on the Academy Awards, got them thinking better about the brand.

This year’s study was conducted among 1,800 men and women, 18-59 years of age, screened for advertiser category-involvement, and who indicated a top-box intent to watch the Academy Awards this Sunday. Sixteen (16) specific brands mentioned in the press as possible advertisers on this year’s award show were evaluated, a week before the 86th award show. Where this backdrop significantly enhanced a brand’s equity, we’ve awarded it an Engagement Oscar. This year, the winners are.  .  .

American Express

General Motors
Selsun Blue

For the others, all we can offer up is, “Thanks for the memories.”

And yes, before you critics start carping that entertainment and engagement are not necessarily mutually exclusive, we’ll concede that’s true. Attaining both means not only was your creative top-notch, but your brand engagement strategy was as well. But that doesn’t happen as often as you’d think, and not often enough, despite all the pre-event buzz and hoopla.

This year the odds of engaging versus entertaining turned out to be 50:50. We’ll leave it to you decide if you want to take a chance with that kind of money with those odds. Brand Keys has found that engaged consumers are six times more likely to behave positively towards a brand, so just because a venue seems exciting and can generate a large, unified audience, and just because your agency has digitally “inserted” your brand into clips from classic movies, or has paid a gazillion dollars for some really fantastic special effects doesn’t mean it will work for every brand.  It’s worth remembering those wonderful last lines from Pretty Woman, “This is Hollywood, land of dreams. Some dreams come true, some don’t.” If you’re a marketer dreaming of real ad success and can take out an option on entertainment or an option for engagement, you should always invest your money in engagement. Odds are you’ll see a better return on your investment.

Speaking of odds, every year we offer some up on the Oscar races based on the same loyalty and engagement assessments that correlate so very highly with positive consumer behavior and sales. Last year we hit 92%, so here are the odds for the “big” categories for this Sunday’s event. These calculations are provided for entertainment value only. If you’re making real bets on the outcomes, you’re on your own – just like advertisers without real engagement metrics!

Best Picture

12 Years a Slave                                                1/4

American Hustle                                               16/1

Captain Phillips                                               200/1

Dallas Buyers Club                                           25/1

Gravity                                                                9/2

Her                                                                  250/1

Nebraska                                                         250/1

Philomena                                                        250/1

The Wolf of Wall Street                                      80/1


Alfonso Cuarón (Gravity)                                   1/20              

Steve McQueen (12 Years a Slave)                     9/1

Alexander Payne (Nebraska)                           100/1

David O. Russell (American Hustle)                   33/1

Martin Scorsese (The Wolf of Wall Street)         50/1

Lead Actor

Christian Bale                                                    100/1

Bruce Dern                                                          54/1

Chiwetel Ejiofor                                                     7/1

Matthew McConaughey                                      10/1

Leonardo DiCaprio                                                6/1

Lead Actress

Amy Adams                                                          16/1

Cate Blanchett                                                      1/14

Judi Dench                                                            50/1

Meryl Streep                                                          80/1

Sandra Bullock                                                      20/1

Supporting Actor

Barkhad Abdi                                                        16/1

Bradley Cooper                                                     69/1

Michael Fassbender                                              11/1

Jonah Hill                                                               60/1

Jared Leto                                                              1/10

Supporting Actress

Sally Hawkins                                                         44/1

Jennifer Lawrence                                                  11/8

Lupita Nyong’o                                                        8/11

Julia Roberts                                                           60/1

June Squibb                                                            44/1

About the hosting duties, Ms. DeGeneres has said, “I am so excited to be hosting the Oscars for the second time. You know what they say – the third time’s the charm.”

For marketers with real engagement metrics odds are 6-1the first time can be the charm for them.

Connect with Robert on LinkedIn.

Find out more about what makes customer loyalty happen and how Brand Keys metrics is able to predict future consumer behavior: Visit our YouTube channel to learn more about Brand Keys methodology, applications and case studies.

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