Oscars: brands target female entertainment fans

The 84th annual Academy Awards took place at the weekend, and amongst the furor over poor audio quality, Angelina Jolie’s right leg, Jlo’s mini wardrobe malfunction, and Ryan Seacrest wearing Kim Jong Il’s ashes (a Sacha Baron Cohen PR stunt), some awards were actually won.

'The Artist', somewhat unsurprisingly, swept the board on the night, but it was the mini features in the ad breaks that were really vying for our collective attention. Brands were once again out in force during this year’s broadcast, with notable spots from the likes of American Express, Kraft, AT&T, JCPenney, Diet Coke, McDonald’s, Disney, Hyundai, Travelocity, Samsung, and Stella Artois.

The Oscars are often referred to as “The Super Bowl for women” by advertisers, and with good reason. Roughly 70% of the audience is comprised of women, and despite an overall audience fall off of some 23% over the last ten years this still equates to a female audience of around 26.3 million viewers.

These aren’t Super Bowl style numbers of course - which is reflected in the cost (around $1.7M per 30 second spot, as opposed to $3.5M during the big game) – however, Oscars night does offer a much more targeted audience in many ways.

With women spending some $5 trillion annually and accounting for around 85% of all consumer purchases – the glitzy, glamorous, and decidedly fashion led event, delivers a key entertainment platform to imbue normally stayed household brands with an entertainment edge.

That said Oscar night ads rarely have much digital build up and gain hardly a fraction of the viral traction of their Super Bowl counterparts. Which is something of a missed opportunity given the fact that women are largely driving the social agenda online.

Here’s a run down of the big female-focused ads gracing the red carpet this year…


The mayonnaise brand, famous for its product placement in Lady Gaga’s ‘Telephone’ music video, opted for an epic 17th century styled cinematic production as the brand focused in on a love it/ hate it style promotion. The ads, ‘Witch Hunt’ and ‘Village’ broke prior to the Awards broadcast, building anticipation – as so many Super Bowl ads did this year. The campaign utilised social media during the broadcast to engage dual-screen viewers, polling users on their product preferences via Facebook and driving free product samples.

One of the particularly clever aspects of the promotion saw the brand actively seeking out negative comments about the actors on the night; posting wry comments on Twitter and tagging them with the tagline ‘2quick2judge’. It’s a brave real-time response, and one that focuses in on the gossip (much more important than the actual awards) to drive social conversations around the brand.


Hyundai - the exclusive automotive sponsor of the Oscars - opted to align directly with film by employing a legendary cult director, Wes Anderson (Royal Tenenbaums/ The Life Aquatic), to create two Oscar commercials for its luxury sedan, the 2012 Hyundai Azera.

Whereas ‘Talk to my Car’ had a more direct nod to cinema with its pastiche of famous film clips; it was the ‘Modern Life’ TVC that aimed directly for the female audience – focusing in on the escapism that its vehicle offers from the daily chores.

The brand also posted behind-the-scenes footage from the Anderson shoots on its YouTube channel the day after the show.


Coca-Cola opted to celebrate the unsung heroes behind the silver screen during Oscars night. The Wieden + Kennedy crafted ‘Credit’ ad for Diet Coke paid homage to the hard working people who help to create movie magic, from the storyboarders, cameramen, stuntmen and wardrobe stylists right up to the most crucial part of the movie making experience - the cinema going public.

The ad showcases Diet Coke as an active participant, fuelling creativity throughout the cinematic process, with the tagline suggesting that “not all stars appear on-screen”.

Coca-Cola's stance here is a clever once, opting to celebrate the 'craft' of film - the people who actually make it all happen - as opposed to the more glossy veneer. It feels genuine and credible, placing the brand solidly at the epicentre of what the Oscars is all about - a celebration of not just great movies, but great movie making.


Chat show host and American institution in her own right, Ellen DeGeneres, featured in five 30-second commercials for the re-branded JCPenney retail chain, which saw her cast back in time to a number of suitably cinematic reference points, from the Wild West to Victorian England and Rome.

The above spot references iconic musical, ‘My Fair Lady’ and sees the brand using a mix of high profile celebrity endorsement and cinema culture to tell its brand story in a simple, story led way.  The campaign also had a big social media push behind it, with Ellen delivering additional content (outtakes from the ads) to her 9.6 million Twitter fans.


Johnson & Johnson aired a highly sentimental ad during the Oscars, reminiscent of early 90’s movie ‘Look who’s Talking’; offering us a voiceover from the point of view of a baby as it tells its mother “you’re doing ok mom”.

Babies and animals always have a tendency to come out on top during big event ad spends, as this year’s Super Bowl (and the Doritos ‘Sling Baby’ TVC) testified to. Yes it could be viewed as corny, but playing heavily on emotion is probably right on the money here bearing in mind the female dominance of the audience.

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