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Buy Those Oscar Ads Wisely

More of the voting community uses the Internet, hastening a shift of ad dollars and the death of the two-paper town

When Hollywood was a two-paper town, “For Your Consideration” advertising options during awards season were split between Variety and the Hollywood Reporter, with Variety taking market-share. Online advertising was still young, and marketers clamored for print believing it was the best vehicle to reach the coveted eyeballs of the voting community.

The metrics for print advertising success are simple and straightforward: delivery and visibility. Did the award issue get into the hands of an academy or union member? And did Kevin Bacon come up to you at a cocktail party and tell you how great his ad looked on the inside front cover?

Now the landscape has evolved. More of the voting community uses the Internet and the pool of players vying for online dollars has increased exponentially, hastening a shift of ad dollars to online and the death of the two-paper town. Everyone wants a piece of Oscar … even, gasp, Nikki Finke. With the Best Picture category expanding to 10 nominees, and so many options for online placements, how can marketers best plan and execute to ensure nominations and wins? 

Buy on sites that capture log in/registration information.   

Sites that require some form of login/registration (email, personalized pages or IM) gather data on users and can track online behavior. Log-in user data is more reliable than a cookie as cookies can be wiped out. For marketers, this means they can target the ads more efficiently and eliminate media waste.

Pixel sites that voting members traffic.

Place site-event-tracking pixels on websites likely to receive visits from the voting community such as the SAG website, Oscar.com, and the studio academy sites. Site-event pixels help identify and follow the user’s path online. Publishers will know when the voting community visits their site and can provide proof to marketers that academy and guild members viewed, engaged or interacted with their ads by measuring click though, interact through and view through. So, you’re thinking, “Put a pixel on AMPAS pages? Come on!” But has anybody asked them? Site events, flood and spot light tagging are common practices in online marketing.   

Don’t waste money on Flash. Use video in the ad units.

Flash ads only measure click through rates which are abysmal. The Dynamic Logic Market Norms 2008 study shows rich media outperforms Flash in driving purchase intent and aiding brand awareness. Rich media ads with video lift brand favorability by 2.3 percent. The study also found that Flash had the poorest results in both purchase intent and brand favorability. With rich media, marketers can measure interaction, activity, video completion, or whatever is important to the campaign. Rich media also enables big, splashy executions that make an impact and recreate the emotional experience of the movie. If a site won’t allow rich media, limit the buy.    

Retarget the user and optimize the creative. Always keep the campaign fresh. Once a voting member has seen or interacted with one ad for a particular film, be sure the next ad unit they see includes messaging for another category. For example, a voter sees an ad for “Julie and Julia” with the messaging “For Your Consideration: Best Picture” and engages with the ad. The next time that user sees the ad the messaging reads, “Meryl Streep — Best Actress.” Offer several different concepts to test the performance of the ads and put the most compelling message in front of the voter and have a strong, clear call to action.

Marketers can also enhance this season’s online marketing campaigns and increase interaction rates by incorporating key features and functionality into their ad units. Here are six of the top elements to consider:

Screening schedules/showtimes: Pull in an xml feed of Academy and Guild screenings with the show times and theatres in the banner utilizing reverse IP look up for location and also provide an option to include zip code.

Mobile: Include functionality within the unit that allows the user to send SMS screening schedules to a mobile phone.

Click for full screen HD: Have you seen “Click for full screen HD”? It looks amazing and out performs standard video. Take a look at how Focus Features effectively used full screen HD in last year’s contender, “Milk” campaign.

Twitter: Pull in a Twitter xml feed into the unit to increase brand interaction time. Here’s an example of Twitter in the campaign for Universal Pictures’ theatrical release of “Bruno.”

 “Send to a Friend” functionality: Get a viral buzz going by allowing users to send video,  screening schedules, etc. to other voting members. 

Reviews/Interviews: Pull reviews and other related content into the banner to expand and maintain the user’s interest in the film or talent.

Skeptics may say, “Oh but those academy members are soooo old. They don’t understand technology.” Really? Aren’t they the talent that produces the most sophisticated, cutting edge innovations in entertainment? Rolling over a banner and watching a clip isn’t as complicated as developing a new generation of stereoscopic cameras used to shoot “Avatar.” Those academy members seem pretty sharp to me.

“For Your Consideration” advertising receives criticism from industry purists, but there are many positive reasons to keep the tradition. Ads help voters sort through and prioritize which screenings/films they have time to attend/watch. They jog your memory of a film you saw earlier in the year and may have forgotten.

The ads also acknowledge and support our talented community, while increasing consumer awareness of a film to help box office sales. Plus, it’s fabulous fun! In this dreary economy, we need Hollywood glamour.

As the buying habits shift from print to the web, let’s buy wisely, accurately measure the success of a campaign, and lift Oscar ROI.

Dea Lawrence is a seasoned senior executive in the online industry specializing in sales and marketing. Currently she is responsible for the management and expansion of PointRoll’s West Coast sales team, driving revenue growth and developing and maintaining all advertiser and agency relationships. Her speaking engagements include iMedia, Women In Film, Circulation Marketing Management, Variety’s Digital Marketing panel and numerous film festivals.

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