Online Advertisers Still Love Oscar

For some advertisers, the Academy Awards is as significant an event as the Super Bowl. This year, however, it didn’t hold quite the same caché. Ad revenue for the program dropped by as much as 16 percent, according to one report, and the price of TV spots that ran during the show declined by about 20 percent from last year.

Major brands like Diet Coke and Hoover still had a strong presence, and celebrity ad cameos were abundant. But like the show itself, which right from its opening number kept things more reserved than in years past, advertisers were generally cautious about their messaging and tone.

One way to get around the sensitivity issue, of course, is by avoiding the live broadcast altogether and advertising instead around the post-Oscar content that abounds this week. It’s a chance for marketers to avoid any stigma associated with so unashamedly peddling their wares in such a public arena at a time of economic crisis — without bypassing the rare opportunity to connect with the throngs of potential customers this event invariably attracts.

This second act of advertising takes place on sites like E! Online, which boasts a rich awards season Red Carpet section designed to recap the night’s events and, most importantly, the styles sported by the celebrities in attendance. This year, Sprint and Dial snatched sponsorships of the Red Carpet Pose-Off, which pits celebrity looks against one another in an interactive game where users compare their preferences to the popular vote. Sadly, neither advertiser managed to leverage the theme on their sites, missing an opportunity to extend the excitement about the Oscars to their brands.

The same can’t be said about Diet Coke, which — in addition to its television spots — purchased placements in Oscar.com‘s Red Carpet section to promote its affiliation with The Heart Truth, a campaign for women designed to increase awareness about heart disease. The obvious association between the event’s red carpet clothing and the red dress that symbolizes the organization encourages consumers to take notice. Expandable banner ads, featuring Heidi Klum offering heart health tips like “Don’t Smoke” and “Aim for a Healthy Weight,” are embedded with a video clip of the associated TV spot that ran during the live telecast.

Further drawing a parallel between the Academy Awards and Diet Coke/The Heart Truth is the associated microsite linked to from the ads. The site includes a Style Series section that highlights Klum’s approach to both style and good health, and even features clips of her at last year’s Academy Awards.

In the Nomination section of Oscar.com, Hyundai (which also invested in the Super Bowl this year) bet its ads would resonate with consumers because of their economically-charged messaging. Banners promote the automaker’s new Assurance Plus program, which provides consumers with payment relief and the option of returning the vehicle should they lose their jobs after making a purchase.

Messaging played with buzzwords like “economic stimulus package,” and complemented the eight television spots that the brand ran during the Academy Awards. (According to automotive research resource Edmunds.com, Hyundai’s bet paid off: post-broadcast, Hyundai pages on the Edmunds site received a 27 percent boost in traffic.)

As expected, beauty advertisers weren’t absent from the event’s festivities — or the post-show clamor for recaps on dress, hair, and accessory choices. Over on Style.com, L’Oreal chose its placements and messaging well with Find Your Red Carpet Style banners that served the brand throughout this year’s award season. Beauty brands like this CPG giant tend to do well with buys like these; recession or not, being glamorous is still a desirable trait among women (the largest demographic group of the Academy Awards) — particularly when it can be achieved at drug store prices.

It’s a difficult time to be an advertiser, but these brands were wise to select placements that cashed in on the post-Oscar excitement online. Their campaigns weren’t all gold-plated, but some are bound to be a hit.

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