It might be an honor just to be nominated for an Academy Award, but when it comes to the bottom line, a nomination can be even better than a win – both for movie studios and for L.A. advertising.
Oscar nominations can mean big ad revenue for print publications, websites, billboard companies, radio stations, and other advertising vehicles as studios look to influence Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences members and ride their films’ acclaim to greater ticket sales.
But how entertainment companies promote their movies is changing as they increasingly look to social media marketing to reinforce their Oscar drives.
“Social media has proven to be extremely effective with a much lower spend,” said show-business industry watcher Ira Kalb, an associate professor of marketing at USC and a 45-year marketing consultant. “I see more of a trend in that in the future.”
That doesn’t mean social media will overshadow the call for traditional advertising, though, particularly in Los Angeles, the epicenter of the movie business, he said.
“I wouldn’t say (social media) is cutting into it,” Kalb said.
The stakes are high for both the studios and media that sell the ads.
Films nominated in major categories can add an average of $13 million to box-office income, said Kalb, citing data from market research company IBISWorld and other sources. Winners might add an additional $1 million to that haul.
Depending on a movie’s budget and studio resources, anywhere from $1 million to $15 million could be spent on an Oscar campaign over several months. A page-one ad in The Hollywood Reporter during awards season cost a reported $72,000 in 2015.
The period between the nominations, which were announced last week, and the Academy Awards ceremony Feb. 28 provides one more opportunity to promote the films.
Nowhere is the congratulatory practice as intense as in Los Angeles, where display ads in The Hollywood Reporter, Variety, and Los Angeles Times as well as on industry websites such as The Wrap and Deadline might start popping up within days of the announcement of nominees.
Marc Becker, chief executive of brand-focused Glendale firm the Tangent Agency, said traditional industry trade publications are adding social, digital, and experiential campaigns while maintaining the traditional one-sheet advertisement.
While Tangent is more involved in branding and marketing movies prior to awards season, Becker said major studios often create in house, or outsource to a vendor, several layered versions of display ads, allowing room to drop in the number and categories of a film’s nominations quickly after they are announced.
Major studios also employ awards consultants to strategize a campaign that might include not only print and digital ads, but also special events, stunts, and screenings catering to academy members as well as TV spots, and, more recently, social media.
This new medium can be much less expensive than designing and placing traditional print display art, Becker said. Designing a piece of art for a display ad, billboard, or poster not based on prior work can cost more than $15,000.
Movie marketers are also launching social media campaigns Becker described as a little more guerilla in approach for certain films, especially those with youth appeal. He cited star Ryan Reynolds’ satirical “For Your Consideration” Twitter video for “Deadpool,” in which existing movie footage is cut together. Reynolds is also a producer of the film.
Although the video might continue to attract fans to “Deadpool,” the movie received no Academy Award nominations.
USC’s Kalb agrees that social media is becoming more important to the Oscar frenzy – particularly after last year’s well-publicized push to diversify the academy’s voting membership after only white actors received nominations in the four major acting categories. The nominations spurred the hashtag #OscarsSoWhite and caused some to boycott the event.
A more diverse academy also means new voters who are younger and more connected to social media, Kalb said.
Kyla Brennan, founder and chief executive of HelloSociety, a Santa Monica marketing and analytics agency that focuses on social influencers, does not handle Oscar campaigns but said entertainment companies are her firm’s fastest-growing client base.
Social media, she said, “generates actual conversation instead of a static piece, a billboard or a magazine. With movies and entertainment, you want to get people talking, get that creative buzz.”
Advertising and marketing efforts aren’t just about selling tickets or influencing votes. They can be a personal show of support for a nominee as well.
“It makes the talent feel better about themselves,” Kalb said.
He said new billboards boasting academy nominations will start to surface in key neighborhoods that are thought to be home to many stars and academy voters: Hollywood, Beverly Hills, and the Westside as well as in Manhattan, the creative hub of the East Coast.
Tangent’s Becker, who worked on global brand marketing for Universal Pictures, agrees that local display ads and billboards can be as much about making filmmakers feel the love of the creative community as about pumping box office. There’s also a payoff down the line.
“It’s so important that you maintain these relationships,” he said. “Academy Award nominees are being courted by every studio.”