How the Oscars Have Adapted to a Declining TV Audience

How the Oscars Have Adapted to a Declining TV Audience

Marketing

It looks like the 90th annual Academy Awards will go down as the least watched in history. Preliminary numbers show that overall viewership will dip below 30 million for the first time ever. Until now, the least watched Oscars telecast occurred in 2008, when the Academy Awards garnered 32 million viewers.

And the numbers appear even worse when you realize that the Oscars have been experiencing a ratings decline for four straight years. By contrast, in 1998, the Academy Awards were watched by 55 million people, an all-time high.

Should the Academy be worried?

My take: the ratings decline is simply a sign of change in the way people experience televised events. In fact, the Academy is already doing what any smart brand should do: adapt.

As we’ve noted on our blog, television continues to present its share of limitations for advertisers. Viewership for major events, such as the Olympics, Super Bowl, and Academy Awards, continues to drop as people shift their viewing habits from sitting in front of their TV sets to multi-tasking with social media and catching snippets of content on their mobile phones. Interestingly, Josef Adalain of Vulture points out that the Academy Awards will continue to be profitable for ABC because it’s still one of the few opportunities for advertisers to share their message with a mass audience.

But the Academy is not simply feeding off a smaller audience. The Academy Awards meet viewers where they are with a number of digital experiences. For example:

  • Oscars: All Access makes it possible for fans to get a look at what happens backstage via well placed cameras that catch interesting little moments such as how stars react right after they walk backstage after receiving their Oscars. The All Access feature appeals to people on their phones and laptops who are looking for a fun second-screen experience, especially for cable cord cutters who are shut off from the actual show.

  • With social media, the Academy engages fans through Facebook Live broadcasts, contests, and shout-outs to fans who are tracking the show online. On platforms such as Facebook and Twitter, the Academy cranks out a mix of visual content to tell the story of what happens onstage and in the audience. The Academy has turned the Oscars into a year-round brand by using social to keep fans engaged with content. You can even watch Oscar-nominated shorts on the Academy’s YouTube channel.

Advertisers are also adapting. We’ve already seen many instances of businesses creating real-time social media content to capitalize on memorable Oscar moments, while other brands, such as AT&T, have used advertising dollars to sponsor the Academy’s digital content, such as Oscars: All Access.

The Academy Awards offer a lesson to businesses that emerged in the age of linear TV. In the age of digital, you can still have your audience. You just need to meet them where they are. To maximizing the value of our digital spend, contact us. We’re here to help.

How Crock-Pot Used Crisis Communications to Put out a Fire

How Crock-Pot Used Crisis Communications to Put out a Fire

Marketing

The days leading up to Super Bowl Sunday were a nightmare for Newell Brands, maker of the iconic Crock-Pot, thanks to an unexpected crisis triggered by a TV drama that involved a make-believe death caused by a Crock-Pot. Following is a closer look at how a fictional event caused a real-life problem for a $13 billion business – and how quick thinking contained the problem.

What Happened

The show, This is Us, an emotional drama that follows the generational story of the Pearson family, took television by storm in the fall of 2016.  The series averages about 15 million viewers a week in the coveted 18-49 year old demographic. Spoiler alert: in one of the episodes, the family’s beloved father, Jack, suffers a heart attack as a result of a massive smoke inhalation caused by a house fire. On January 23, during the episode “That’ll Be the Day,” viewers learned what caused the fire in the first place: a Crock-Pot.

Viewers watched as an elderly neighbor delivered a used Crock-Pot to the young, newly married Pearson couple. The neighbor said that the Crock-Pot’s power switch was a little temperamental but assured them that they would still be able to enjoy some good family meals. Flash forward to years later as the couple, now with teen-aged children, celebrate the Super Bowl.  The show ends with Jack turning off the Crock-Pot switch before going to bed. A spark flashes from the faulty switch, igniting a fire, and the house quickly becomes engulfed in flames.

Crisis Time

As I watched that episode with my husband, the marketing gears in my head immediately started turning. I thought about the backlash that Crock-Pot would be facing as it was revealed the product was responsible for the beloved character’s death. I told my husband that I hoped Crock-Pot’s PR team would immediately start working on a plan to offset any damage incurred by the revelation. I suggested they flood social media with a response ASAP so as to minimize the negative impact. It was then I realized that we could very personally be affected by this unforeseen series of events: my husband is employed by the company that owns Crock-Pot, Newell Brands.

By the next day, Crock-Pot was headlining news stories:

And while it may seem silly to think the death of a fictional TV character could cause such a hardship for a long-established household brand, the facts were hard to dispute. People were tweeting about throwing away their Crock-Pots. The safety of the product was called into question. The value of Newell Brands stock fell by 24 percent, and the loss was immediately linked by many to the Crock-Pot fire disaster. In reality, the stock plunge occurred after Newell Brands announced disappointing guidance for 2018. But nonetheless the brand was under attack after a perceived safety hazard.

Newell Brands Takes Action

The Crock-Pot communication/social team immediately jumped into action. For instance, the brand worked to restore trust in its product by releasing a statement. Here is an excerpt:

For nearly 50 years with over 100 million Crock-Pots sold, we have never received any consumer complaints similar to the fictional events portrayed in last night’s episode. In fact, the safety and design of our product renders this type of event nearly impossible.

(The full statement is available here.)

This is Us creator, Dan Fogelman, also followed up with a tweet defending the company’s product:

Crock-Pot quickly created its first ever Twitter Account “CrockPotCares,” engaging with concerned consumers as the social media storm continued to ignite. While all of these responses were appropriate and wise measures to take, Crock-Pot knocked it out of the park when the brand teamed up with NBC and Milo Ventimiglia (who portrays Jack in the TV show) to create a hilarious new promo ad for the show’s much anticipated Super Bowl episode February 4.

In what appears to be a political ad, Milo starts off in a somber tone speaking about how the country is divided and how we need to come together. As he continues to talk about forgiveness, the camera pans to him scooping up a bowl of chili from, you guessed it . . . a Crock-Pot!  The brilliant ad ends with a black screen with the Crock-Pot logo and the hashtag #CrockPotIsInnocent.

Results

On February 3, after the promo ad was shown, digital content engagement around Crock-Pot increased by 84 percent, and there were nearly 2,000 tweets using the hashtag #CrockPotIsInnocent, with sentiment around that hashtag being 57 percent positive — the most common sentiment being that it was hilarious and a brilliant promotion for Crock-Pot.

Lessons learned? If a well-established brand such as Crock-Pot can incur such negative consequences from a fictional TV storyline, it should be a warning to every company about the importance of having a solid strategy in place to combat such challenges. Reach customers quickly through social channels and look for a unique way to re-establish your brand’s positive image. Time is of the essence — so act fast! In a matter of a few days, Crock-Pot succeeded in turning a PR nightmare into a successful restoration of trust  in its brand.

4 Advertising Trends from Super Bowl LII

4 Advertising Trends from Super Bowl LII

Marketing

The past 24 hours have been full of stories rating the Super Bowl ads. The fact that the ads are even rated at all is a testament to their power. We now treat them like movies, talking about them before the big reveal, watching trailers, and then experiencing the moment, after which we discuss how we feel about them (actually, the discuss occurs in real time now, followed by more detailed analysis). In addition to judging the ads, though, it’s also interesting to watch for trends in their format or differences in how they were unveiled in years past. Here are a few we noticed:

1. The Surprise Drop

Usually ads for movies promote releases that are months on the horizon. This year, Netflix dropped a surprise: a film, The Cloverfield Paradox, that premiered immediately after the Super Bowl. The surprise release followed an approach that musicians such as Beyoncé have employed with surprise album drops. In the words of reporter William Bibbian of IGN.com, “All of a sudden, a film most people hadn’t even heard of was now a very big deal.” But the buzz turned to disappointment after critics actually saw the movie and reviewed it. Perhaps that’s what Netflix had in mind all along: drop the movie during the Super Bowl Sunday and attract viewership before word-of-mouth reactions set in.

2. Fewer Stunts

In years past, brands have used the Super Bowl to unleash amusing stunts such as fake ads. This year, advertisers unleashed fewer stunts with the notable exception of Skittles. As we discussed on our blog, Skittles release an advertisement watched by just one person, employing a tongue-in-cheek tone that made us wonder if the ad and person were real. Well, they were. Skittles did what brands struggle to do amid the Super Bowl ad blizzard: capture attention and create conversation. Otherwise, brands focused on the content of the ads themselves.

3. Longer-Form Narrative

As noted in Business Insider, Super Bowl ads were lengthier, taking a storytelling approach that required viewers to follow storylines, such as Aerosmith’s Stevie Tyler reverse aging as he drove a Kia in reverse. Tide released a series of ads starring Stranger Things actor David Harbour, who appeared in ads mocking the concept of an ad. Apparently Super Bowl advertisers wanted to create more memorable moments during the game itself by telling stories, which might help explain why fewer brands released their ads before the game this year.

4. Measurable Performance

Automobile marketplace Cars.com announced that automotive ads generally drove viewers to Cars.com to check out the cars advertised during the game. According to Cars, the Kia Red Stinger ad resulted in a 4,053-percent spike in traffic to view the car on Cars.com. Cars.com research showed that Super Bowl ads (in the automotive industry, anyway) creature measurable results. Perhaps in the future, brands will dial up their ability to measure and even adjust advertising on the fly based on audience feedback in real-time. With digital, anything is possible.

Super Bowl ads, like Black Friday, adapt to changing times and endure the most withering criticism. The Super Bowl will always be an advertising bonanza. Businesses, though, will tweak their approaches year after year as they try to capture a reward so elusive in the digital age: our attention. For more insight into how to build your brand, contact True Interactive.

 

 

Super Bowl Ads: The Medium Is the Message

Super Bowl Ads: The Medium Is the Message

Marketing

Evaluating Super Bowl ads has become an immensely popular spectator sport since the big game emerged in 1967. What’s changed recently is that people not only care about the content of the ads but how they’re delivered. For instance:

  • We’ve seen other advertisers take the “anti-real-time” approach, creating a build-up for the big game by sharing teasers for their ads ahead of time, similar to movie trailers. Some brands actually release the ads themselves before the game, in an effort to generate conversation, accumulate online views, and presumably extend the shelf life of the notoriously expensive ads.
  • We’ve seen a variety of other approaches that can best be described as stunts, ranging from Snickers livestreaming the actual set of its ad (for a behind-the-scenes approach) to 84 Lumber generating publicity by talking about an ad that was rejected (a “how we courted controversy” approach).

The latest stunt: Skittles will broadcast a 60-second spot for an audience of one: a teenager named Marcos Menendez from Canoga Park, California. The rest of us will watch Menendez’s reaction via a livestream on Skittles’ Facebook page. Lest you think that Skittles is pulling off the ultimate act of narrowcasting, consider the engagement Skittles is generating:

  • Creation of content about the ad. As Matt Montei, vice president of fruit confections for Skittles’ parent Mars, told Adweek, “We’ll also have content in the form of four different teasers for everyone to view and speculate what that final ad might be, even though they themselves will not be able to view the final ad.”
  • Generation of buzz for Skittles including the audience with the inevitable “Who is Marcos Menendez?” narrative emerging. Think about that. How many ads create conversation because of the audience watching them? The PR entered the realm of the improbable and offbeat when Oakland Raiders Running Back Marshawn Lynch apparently tweeted his phone number because he wanted Marcos Menendez to call him in order to watch the ad with him.

It’s possible that the Skittles campaign is informed by the phenomenal story of Carter Wilkerson, a teenager whose obsession with Wendy’s Nuggets sparked a hilarious viral campaign on Twitter to help the teen win a free year of the nuggets. A seemingly random Twitter exchange between Wendy’s and one person resulted in Carter getting the most retweets in history – and for Wendy’s, powerful PR.

The Wendy’s/Carter Wilkerson story involved a real teen with a passion for Wendy’s Nuggets. But it’s questionable whether Marcos Menendez is even real. What kind of teen joins Twitter in January 2018? When you look at the tongue-in-cheek way Skittles promotes the “audience of one” on its Facebook page, it’s easy to conclude that we’re being set up for an ad that never was to a person who never was. By creating an audience of one, is Skittle’s stealing the voice and power of organic social media? If this campaign is just a stunt and Marcos isn’t real, will the stunt cause more distrust and backlash of social media? At a time when concerns about fake news are prevalent, Skittles could be taking a big risk.

Whether Marcos Menendez real or just a clever stunt, the Skittles promotion underscores the tremendous buzz that national brands create with their ads, both the content and the format. If you are affiliated with a national brand – let’s say you’re a retailer that sells Skittles online and offline – you should be capitalizing on the spike in awareness for Skittles occurring right now. For example, adjust your keyword bids and optimize your online inventory content for people searching where to buy Skittles. Make sure your socials tap into the national campaign. Put the stunt to work for you.

For more insight into how to build your brand and generate revenue through digital advertising, contact True Interactive. We’re here to help.