128: Academy Award-Winning Advertising
Tomorrow, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences will announce the nominees for the 87th annual Academy Awards. Candidly, this isn’t typically big on my radar; but this year is different.
Inexplicably, several months ago, I started finding free copies of The Hollywood Reporter in my mailbox. The January 2015 issue understandably focused on the awards season that spans the Golden Globes and the Oscars. I opened this edition because 75% of the front cover is filled with a shot from an amazing movie I watched a few weeks ago.
As I flipped through the pages, nine of the remaining eleven pages of ads held something in common with the cover. They were asking for a movie (or someone who contributed to a movie) to be nominated for an Academy Award. I was intrigued by the challenge of representing movies that probably average a good two hours of scenes with static images in a print medium. I’d never really thought of public—even targeted—solicitation for awards consideration. So, I thumbed my way through the magazine several times to compare how each studio marketed their respective product and people.
Nine of the nine (100%) ads used testimonials from accomplished film critics.
I don’t know if this is intended to create peer pressure or to retroactively change impressions. Four of the nine (44%) even used the official masthead graphic of the critic’s publisher to add credence—a savvy touch.
Nine of the nine (100%) ads used “For Your Consideration” as a call to action.
Two of the nine (22%) ads led the ad with those three words as its headline. All of the ads “made the ask.” They just differed in the level or priority they gave it.
Nine of the nine (100%) ads hid their studio’s name and logo by inserting them very small at the bottom of the ad.
I’m not sure what the strategy is behind this humility—especially since the priority is usually exactly opposite at the start of a movie in the theater), but it seems that the studios wanted their movies or actors not to be considered in terms of who paid for the production.
Nine of the nine (100%) ads used ALL CAPS for most or all of its text.
As refined as these ads tried to be, they resorted to the font equivalent of shouting to grab attention. Maybe it’s everybody’s live theater background influencing the advertising?
Eight of the nine (89%) ads came in the format of a single, full page ad, while one arrived as a double-page spread.
From what I can gather, it makes sense that Interstellar of the nine movies advertised would be the movie whose ad spanned two pages, as it seems to have placed the most emphasis on sweeping landscapes.
Seven of the nine (78%) ads placed the movie name and branded title graphic at the bottom of the ad.
All judging Academy members would know the movie without the title; so, the advertisers focused on the information they wanted to reinforce in the minds of the readers.
Seven of the nine (78%) ads included prominent demonstration of other awards won by the movie in question.
Six of the seven (86%) of these previously-awarded movies used the industry-standard laurel-parentheses graphic to indicate awards. Four of the seven (57%) used official awards graphics pertaining to the individual competitions in which they had won.
Five of the nine (56%) ads leveraged a single photograph for the whole page.
Four out of those five (80%) ads used the image to cover the entire frame of the page, placing text in the negative space around the primary subject.
None on the ads (0%) used stats like box office sales, cost of production, or man-hours to communicate the challenge or success of the craft. None used any infographics to make abstract concepts more concrete. None mentioned any particular filming or editing technology.
I’ve only seen one of the nine movies so far; so, I can’t make any observations as to how well the ads captured the overarching impression of their respective films. That said, there’s no doubt that thoughtful, intentional choices were leveraged on behalf of these movies.
That said, these ads aren’t necessarily prescriptive in terms of how advertisements should be written, designed, or published. I’m not recommending that you subscribe or not subscribe to The Hollywood Reporter.
What I am suggesting is that you as a marketer regularly take part in this kind of deconstruction and analysis of the media used by industries other than your own. That can go for print media and outdoor advertising, social media and online presence, event marketing and non-traditional advertising vehicles.
This practice can wipe some of the myopia off the lens through which we evaluate our advertising. It can also lead us to dismantle how we build our media and become more intentional with our creative processes—with both large, conceptual decisions and seemingly-small choices. The ensuing conclusions might not lead us to the best practices; but they should, at least, lead us to more self-aware and purposeful marketing.