New Data Sheds Light on Value of Oscar Ads

Why This Matters: Live events still generate big numbers for broadcast, but analytics are unlocking their value to advertisers.

As viewers tune in to see which films win Oscars, big data is focusing on whether sponsors of broadcast’s bigticket events are getting a bang for the bucks.

Last week, ABC said it sold out its ad inventory for the Feb. 24 telecast of the 91st Academy Awards. Commercials sold for between $2 million and $2.6 million. The price tag makes them a target for the growing group of analytics outfits aiming to measure the sales that can be attributed to a particular campaign or ad.

One company, Analytic Partners, calculates that when advertisers pay premium prices for award shows including the Oscars, their return on investment is on average 50% lower than other media buys.

“Advertising on the Oscars can work, but it’s got to be opportunistic for the brand,” said Fred Chassé, senior VP at Analytic Partners, which measures the incremental sales lift from ad campaigns. “It can’t be just your run-of-the-mill advertising that you do the rest of the year.”

Special Ads for a Special Occasion

By running special, themed advertising that’s contextually relevant, or using the event to launch a high-profile product or campaign, an advertiser can generate higher-than-normal return on investment, Chassé said.

“Advertisers are getting smart,” he said. “They’re measuring this stuff so they’re seeing what works and what doesn’t work. When the advertising is captivating, the audience is also paying a lot more attention than they would have.”

EDO, an analytics firm whose founders include Oscar nominee Edward Norton, did a study and found that while ratings are declining, the awards show is still a good buy because people who viewed the ads during last year’s ceremony were 77% more likely to engage online with the brand in the commercial than people who saw a similar ad in a regular primetime broadcast.

“The Oscars have proven to be a fertile environment,” Scott Grunther, EDO’s executive VP and GM of media analytics, said. “What we’re measuring is not about audience size. It’s about how engaging the environment is and how that translates into responses for the sponsors and the brands within the show.”

Last year’s Oscars viewership hit a record low of 26.5 million people, down 20% from the previous year.

Interactive Game in the Mix

One way the Oscars and ABC are looking to boost viewership is by awarding a $50,000 prize in a real time interactive competition. Viewers can guess the winners of Oscar categories and answer trivia questions as part of the live Official Oscar Game, which is powered by iPowow, which helped ABC draw 151 million votes during the 2017 show Boy Band.

The game is sponsored by Verizon and will be teased during the linear Oscar red carpet show and on-screen during the awards presentation, Jerry Daniello, senior VP of entertainment brand solutions at Disney Ad Sales, said.

The second-screen game will give ABC data on who is watching and what they’re chatting about. “The team here is all excited to see what that usership is going to look like,” Daniello said.

Many of ABC’s Oscar advertisers have already embraced the notion that, to make their investment pay off, they should run new or custom commercials during the awards show. Many have creative that features Oscar-winning talent or celebrates the people who make and enjoy movies, he said.

For example, Jean-Pierre Jeunet, who won an Academy Award for Amelie, has directed ads for Marriott, a “Proud Sponsor” of this year’s broadcast.

Disney and ABC also have reams of data on how Oscar ads perform.

Last year, it conducted a study with Google 360 to measure the effect Oscar advertising had on search activity compared to other first-quarter events. The study found search engagement for ads and content in the Oscars was nearly three time the average of the other events, including the Super Bowl and Winter Olympics.

Disney also points to a study conducted by Accenture that found that higher-rated programs deliver elevated returns on investment at levels that far exceed price premiums. That includes not just award shows but all big TV tentpole events.

This year, Disney is commissioning a custom analysis from Phoenix TV Brand Effect that will measure ad memorability, brand memorability, message memorability and likability across all Oscar advertising.

The programmer is also looking to conduct custom measurement with Nielsen Total Ad Ratings to understand the crossplatform reach for Oscar advertisers that also have digital and social sponsorships. The goal is to demonstrate the incremental value of cross-platform deals for future sales efforts.

Jon Lafayette

Jon has been business editor of Broadcasting+Cable since 2010. He focuses on revenue-generating activities, including advertising and distribution, as well as executive intrigue and merger and acquisition activity. Just about any story is fair game, if a dollar sign can make its way into the article. Before B+C, Jon covered the industry for TVWeek, Cable World, Electronic Media, Advertising Age and The New York Post. A native New Yorker, Jon is hiding in plain sight in the suburbs of Chicago.