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January 28, 2009

To market with Oscar

Vert330_81awards After that Gold Rush grilling at Christmastime, it's no wonder Oscar producer Bill Condon hasn't made a public peep about what we can all expect from the 81st Annual Academy Awards. (And he's probably sworn off holiday cookies forever).

He and fellow producer Larry Mark won't spill any details, but that has not stopped the first-ever joint ad campaign from the Academy and ABC, which is using "The Biggest Movie Event of the Year" as its headline. 

The exec heading up that effort is Michael Benson, co-executive vice president of marketing, ABC Entertainment, who said the ads are using the mystery as a selling point and that there are plenty of strong themes in this year's nominated crop of movies and performances to hang a marketing hat on. He gave Gold Rush some lowdown on how the network and the Academy will try to lure people to the three-hour live telecast.

GR: How is this year's push for the Oscars different from the past?
MB: We wanted to reinvent what we do to promote the Oscars, so we engaged an outside ad agency (Omelet, L.A.). We've always had a collaborative relationship with the Academy, but this is the first time we've hired an agency. We all came up with ideas and decided to use the theme, The Biggest Movie Event of the Year.

GR: When did all the work begin?
MB: A month after last year's show, we started working on this year's show.

GR: Was that because of the ratings (which sank to a record low of 32 million viewers)?
MB: Well, everything is about the ratings. But it was a combination of that and taking into account the audience and its changing habits.

GR: Ratings tend to be low when most people haven't seen the nominated movies or aren't that familiar with the actors. How will you deal with the challenges that come from having "The Reader" and Freida Pinto in the mix?
MB: We'll be talking a lot about personal achievement, overcoming the odds, overcoming obstacles. There are a lot of underdogs in this race, and we think people can really relate to that.

In addition to ads on TV, radio, in magazines, newspapers, online, in theaters and elsewhere (and no, Benson won't talk about the bank behind it all) there's a revamped Oscar site -- now with interactivity! -- to try to pull people into the season's Big Show. Will it work on you? Let us know.


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adina ringler

i wish that they would have done a teaser campaign more like CLOVERFIELD. It's worth checking out though. I am watching the Oscars regardless.

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Oscar Contenders

  • So "The Dark Knight" didn't make it into the final five after all, never mind that critical and popular support. Let's just call the comic-inspired mega-hit "The Biggest Snubee."

    Here are the best picture contenders in a race that, two weeks away from the Oscars, seems to be a foregone conclusion ("Slumdog") unless there's a come-from-behind possibility ("The Reader" anyone?)

    "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button," with Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett; the politically timely "Milk;" rags-to-riches fairy tale, "Slumdog Millionaire," Holocaust best-seller-based drama "The Reader," and Watergate-era biopic "Frost/Nixon."

    Could "Button" and "Slumdog" split the vote, allowing another film to take the prize? Doesn't seem likely. After having clung to "Button" for months as what we thought would be the Academy voters' top vhoice, our money's now on "Slumdog." Momentum can't be ignored.

    Watch this blog for updates, ephemera and all manner of postulating.

Picture this

  • Mmmmm, chocolate Oscar. Not every star will walk away from the 81st annual Academy Awards with a trophy, but if they hit the high-profile Governor's Ball they can have pastry chef Sherry Yard's gold-dusted candy version. Also on the menu from celeb chef Wolfgang Puck is tuna tartare in sesame miso cones, chopped Chino Farms vegetable salad with ginger soy vinaigrette, Maine lobster and caviar. Serve it up! (Getty Images)

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