It seems like only one product category would go all-out in campaigning around the Academy Awards: movies (inclusive of the talent who make them). Indeed, the intense PR campaigns waged by Academy Awards contenders are the stuff of marketing legend.
However, about six weeks before the award show, all sorts of different products begin looking for ways to share in that golden Oscar limelight. Some of them can claim at least ancillary status: fashion brands who get international publicity by dressing nominees; auto brands that have paid big bucks to secure A-list brand ambassadors; and entertainment news media who promise the best insider coverage of the event.
Then, there are the more tenuous connections, such as the many food and drink brands who try to position themselves as necessary refreshments for an Oscar viewing party… or the drugstore beauty brands who advertise “red carpet looks” via vloggers and influencers who attend Oscar parties on the brand’s dime, and post every moment on Instagram.
Like any other major event, the Academy Award show is oftentimes nearly overwhelmed by the hubbub of marketing that surrounds it. But unlike many other events, it manages to retain an elevated brand image. As this retrospective of memorable Oscar marketing moments will show, that hasn’t always been easy. But when all of Hollywood’s stars align, the effect does tend to dazzle.
Four Oscar-worthy marketing efforts
Givenchy — An Iconic First Moment
Entire novels, not to mention annual post-Oscar issues of every major fashion magazine, have been devoted to the arduous, insanely competitive and ultimately glamorous process of designers “dressing” Oscar attendees. Actresses in the Best Actress category (and Supporting Actress to a slightly lesser degree) are the ultimate “get” for a fashion designer, but the top houses fight to dress most nominees in major categories, as well as presenters and buzzy attendees who will get plenty of red carpet attention.
There have been many memorable moments in Academy Award fashion history, but the very first was when Audrey Hepburn won the Best Actress Oscar in 1954 while dressed in a white floral dress by Givenchy. By today’s award show standards, the look is simple — we wouldn’t even call it a “gown” — but it graced an iconic star and earned a place in fashion and film history.
Apple iPhone — The Arrival
When the iPhone launched in 2007, it was positioned primarily as a phone, not the do-everything mobile device with probable AI prescience that it is now. And the first iPhone commercial, which aired during the 2007 Oscars, was quaint in retrospect. It showcased the evolution of the telephone, as a simple yet revolutionary means of communication, stitching together iconic moments in moving picture history to say a simple “Hello” from Apple to all the viewers at home.
Dove — Making Twitter Nicer, One Tweet at a Time
Dove built its reputation as a sort of “everywoman’s” brand, inclusive of all skin tones, body types and budgets. It doesn’t have a flawless record — in fact, it had a major PR/social media disaster in late 2017 — but waaaay back in 2015 (it seems so far away now), it had positioned itself as the loving and supportive beauty friend for women of every skin tone, body type and budget.
Along those lines, it created a very optimistic social campaign that launched on YouTube and Twitter during the red carpet pre-show coverage. Using the hashtag #SpeakBeautiful and advised by a group of self-esteem efforts, it aimed to be a beacon of positivity amidst an avalanche of derogatory tweets about women. This was a very good thought, although it somewhat ignores the fact that most of the mean tweets were aimed at world-famous actresses at peak grooming levels on the red carpet.
New York Times — Fighting Back Against the #FakeNews Hashtag
After a surreal and rough-and-tumble few months of publicly fighting with the President of the United States, several major conservative politicians and pundits, and a vocal contingent of anti-media civilians, the legacy newspapers were reeling by early 2017. The most legacy of all decided to come out swinging with an Oscar commercial that felt like it could be a scene from an Oscar-nominated film. The message? The truth ain’t always easy.