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And the Academy Award for Brand Engagement Goes to...

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 for the Oscar telecast 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 old engagement
Madison Avenue's always looking for.

Which brings us to our annual Academy AwardsEngagement
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, or, 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 as 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

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 is right for every brand.
In fact, last year Academy Awards 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 this Sunday, Feb.
26. Results for the 14 specific brands reported to be advertising this year are
(alphabetically) below. Engagement winners are those brands perceived to be
able to achieve meaningful engagement from viewers of the telecast, while the
Entertainers would be those brands that are expected by viewers just to

Brand Keys wishes good luck to all the nominees and the advertisers, too. Clint Eastwood once noted, "There are a lot of great movies that have won the Academy Award, and a lot of great movies that haven't. You just do the best you can."