Oscar Campaigns Entertain and Inform Online and Off

In television, only one thing can come close to trumping the excitement surrounding January’s Super Bowl, and that’s February’s Academy Awards. The Oscars attract millions upon millions of captive viewers and, consequently, some spectacular ads. But there’s one big difference between the two events. Whereas the best of Super Bowl advertising plays out on TV, the Academy Awards have a legacy of generating some of the most memorable campaigns online.

This year was no exception. As expected, many brands partnered with fashion, beauty, and entertainment sites, but at the heart of most every major campaign was social media. Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube were used to extend the reach of offline spots while also providing additional exclusive branded content, much of it related to the 84th Annual Academy Awards theme of “Celebrating the movies in all of us.”

Hyundai’s Nod to Cinema

Hyundai was one brand determined to make the most of its Oscar airtime this year, and it certainly delivered. As the official automotive sponsor of the broadcast, it ran several new TV spots, but the two most notable were directed by past Academy Award nominee Wes Anderson to showcase the new Hyundai 2012 Azera. One of the clips was an amusing montage referencing several famed Hollywood films, while the other highlighted the car’s comfortable (and “quiet”) interior.

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Hyundai placed its Anderson-directed commercials on its YouTube channel alongside its Super Bowl ads, which are still being featured in the wake of last month’s game. The move was a smart one, as it drove traffic to both sets of ads at once and reminded visitors that the brand believes enough in its products to spend on major events (part of its “Big Voices, Big Places” strategy for advertising its cars). Hyundai also used its Twitter presence to generate excitement about the spots and created a customized Facebook profile banner depicting the Hyundai Azera on the red carpet and thus further alerting fans to its role in the show.

The biggest online placement, however, was on the Oscar site itself. There, the automaker ran a home page push-down unit featuring “beautifully dramatic” ad copy, along with additional display ads. The banners were impossible to miss, and impossible to ignore.

A CPG Brand Toasts the Red Carpet

Consumer packaged goods companies made their own bid for attention, and leading the charge with a unique approach to the night was Unilever’s I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter. The brand presented a live pre-show viewing party featuring celebrity fashion and beauty experts. The 90-minute web program streamed on US Weekly’s usmagazine.com as well as I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter’s Facebook page and included commentary on red carpet fashions.

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Tapping the expertise and clout of celebrity chef Katie Lee, the brand supplemented its event with Oscar party recipes inspired by some of the film nominees. “Unfried Chicken Skewers” conjured images of Minnie’s cooking in “The Help,” while Hawaii-based “The Descendants” was honored with “Pineapple Upside Down Cupcakes.” Lee was on hand during the live broadcast to present her recipes to viewers and also posted links to the event on Twitter, where the “ToastRedCarpet” hash tag was the subject of countless tweets. In fact, I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter and its celebrity experts all tweeted during the event.

Besides linking their offline advertising with their social media efforts, the brands behind these campaigns have something in common: they understand the importance of relevance. Their efforts may be big and bold, but they still manage to provide pertinent information about their products, whether it be the standout characteristics of a new vehicle model or the versatility of a food product.

Far too often in campaigns driven by major television events, brands lose sight of their objectives and cater instead to the mass audience that may or may not be interested in purchasing their products. The primary goal becomes to entertain rather than to inform. Sticking to the point doesn’t mean the advertising has to be dull, however; Hyundai and I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter are a testament to that. If there’s substance at the core of a campaign, then no amount of thematic gimmicks or celebrity glamour can dilute the message. Consumers appreciate advertising that delivers both of these things in tandem – particularly when the brands behind the ads also make it easy to share the message with friends.

It may not have been the most memorable Academy Awards in history, but it certainly produced some winning ads. Congratulations to Hyundai and I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter on an Oscar broadcast-worthy performance.