A festival of film

The advertising blockbusters (and occasional flops) of Oscar night.

by Mark Tungate , Adforum

For film buffs, the first three months of the year are packed with events. There are the Golden Globes in January. The Berlin Film Festival takes place in February, as do the BAFTAs in London. In March there are the Césars in Paris. Then, to crown it all, the Oscars in Hollywood.

From an advertising point of view, the Oscars were once described as “the Super Bowl for women”. That phrase now feels wildly inappropriate, but it’s fair to say that a fragrance of glamour swirls around the event, which is why the price of a 30-second slot can reach $2.6 million.

So which advertisers took the most creative approach to the Oscars broadcast? High up the list is the new Academy Museum of Motion Pictures, a temple to the movies in Los Angeles. To promote the museum, Wieden + Kennedy made an ad for…the Overlook Hotel, the hotel from Stanley Kubrick’s classic horror flick The Shining (1980).

Next up is a commercial for Walmart, which none other than Time magazine described as “one of the best movies at the 2018 Oscars”. To put it in context, European readers need to know that Walmart’s blue shipping boxes are somewhat iconic. The sci-fi epic was directed by Dee Rees and hits all the right contemporary notes. Twitter exploded with praise.

And if you enjoyed that, Walmart made two other great Oscar-themed spots, directed respectively by Nancy Myers and Melissa McCarthy.

Talking of Twitter, the platform used the Oscars to unveil a spot for its #HereWeAre campaign, originally launched to support women in the tech industry. Ironically, some viewers leapt onto Twitter to accuse the social media giant of hypocrisy. Since the platform is often a forum for uncensored sexist remarks, they asked Twitter to set higher standards for the comments it deems “acceptable”. Beyond that debate, however, the strength of the poem by Denice Frohman seems undeniable.

As you’ve probably gathered by now, the role of women in Hollywood and the #MeToo movement dominated the Oscars. Nike and Wieden + Kennedy stepped up with a spot featuring the awesome Serena Williams, “Until We All Win”.

Less creative but extremely significant was the unveiling of Her Oscar, “a statement to raise awareness about gender discrimination in the film industry”. The spot points out that women make up only 24% of lead actors, 20% of producers, 13% of writers, 4% of directors and just 1% of composers in Hollywood.

One of the joys of the digital world for film fans is the wide availability of trailers, a commercial art all of their own. Your correspondent admits that he regularly settles down with a cup of tea and a biscuit to get his fix from iTunes Trailers, ComingSoon.net or TrailerAddict.com.

With its captive audience of movie fans, Oscars night is an ideal moment to trail the latest blockbuster. It seemed entirely appropriate that the scene was stolen by one of our favourite cinematic heroines, Mary Poppins. Yep, she’s back – and this time it’s personal.