The Academy Awards are considered to be one of the biggest entertainment draws of the year, sometimes called the ‘Super Bowl for Women’. True, female ratings have been down. Overall ratings too. Last year’s viewership was down about 10% from the year prior. And they haven’t been doing all that well with those yearned-for younger viewers either.
As to that last point, last year the Academy went with the youngest co-hosts in its history – Anne Hathaway and James Franco – who got really bad reviews and didn’t bring in the younger, hipper viewers, who, one can only suppose, were supposed to have identified with them. The Academy was going with Eddie Murphy this year, but he bailed and Billy Crystal stepped in. Well, what can you say about that choice? Mr. Crystal, a 9-time host, can entertain with the best of them. But he’s 63 so not precisely a poster child for that coveted 18 – 34 year engagement Madison Avenue’s always looking for.
Which brings us to our annual Academy Awards Engagement study. The way we approach the business, “entertainment” and “engagement” are two, very different things. Just like movies and advertising are two different things. One is there just to entertain. The other is there to convince viewers to behave positively toward the brand in the ad. You know, buy something. At the very least think better of the brand. Not to just sit there and laugh or be amazed at blue-screen special effects. In these days of fragmented media and titanium-strength consumer gate-keeping, this has become something of a tough assignment.
Attaining real brand engagement is more than just identifying an audience and blasting funny/exciting/sexy commercials at them. You don’t want to know they were just amused, you want to know they were engaged. And much as some marketers would like to believe it, the Academy Awards has not yet reached the lofty Super Bowl heights where people tune in to see what the advertisers are doing as much as for the show itself. No, people tune in to the Academy Awards for the 5-W’s: who’s wearing what and who wins! So it really is more important to know if your $1.7 million for that 30-second spot was a good investment.
We do that by using a validated process to fuse emotional and rational aspects of category and brand, and then quantify how exposure to the advertising caused the viewer to “see” the brand as better meeting the expectations they hold for their category Ideal. You know, see if they were engaged or not, and not just that they saw the commercial. This can be done predictively for virtually anything you can show or tell a respondent, but in this case we were looking at whether the combination of the media environment i.e., the Academy Awards, and the advertised brand created an engaged consumer by measuring if the combination of brand and media platform increased (or decreased) a brand’s equity.
And yes, before the critics start carping, entertainment and engagement are not necessarily mutually-exclusive. But if you’re a marketer and are given your choice between one or the other, you should always vote for “engagement.” Attaining both means not only was your creative top-notch, but your strategy was, as well. And just because a venue seems exciting and has the potential to generate an audience doesn’t mean it’s right for every brand. In fact, last-year-advertisers like Amazon, Best Buy, and Living Social – all brands that ended up on our 2011 ‘Entertainer’ list – are not back for 2012. Coincidence? We don’t think so.
This year’s study was conducted among 1 200 men and women, 18-59 years of age, screened for advertiser category involvement, and who indicated a top-box intent to watch the 84th Academy Awards last Sunday. Results for the 14 specific brands reported to be advertising this year were (alphabetically) as follows:
Engagement Winners: Entertainers
American Express, Kraft, AT&T, JCPenney, Diet Coke, McDonald’s, Disney Pictures, Met Life, Hyundai Sprint, Paramount Pictures, Travelocity, Samsung, and Stella Artois.
Robert Passikoff is president of Brand Keys. He is also the author of Predicting Market Success: New Ways to Measure Customer Loyalty and Engage Customers With Your Brand, a comprehensive and practical guide to leading-edge engagement, with leading-indicator research and planning.