Rick Liebling: Oscars 2013 – From Host to Hashtag

Rick Liebling: Oscars 2013 – From Host to Hashtag

The Oscars have become so much more than an event at which trophies are handed out. Now social media platforms, choice of host and brand advertising also play starring roles.

Rick Liebling, Y&R
  • 25 february 2013

No longer a mere awards show, now the Oscars are a referendum on the host, a grasp at cultural relevancy via social media, and a real-time marketing opportunity for brands and fans alike.

The Host

This has got to be one of the toughest gigs around. The ghosts of Hope, Carson and Crystal weigh heavily, and fear of ‘Doing a Letterman’ could induce a serious bout of flop sweat in even the most seasoned performer. Seth MacFarlane is a seriously talented individual, but his stock and trade is more suited perhaps to a Comedy Central Roast than the Academy Awards. Long gone are the days when David Niven’s classic British understatement was the highlight of the show, but this tweet probably best sums up the consensus opinion.

Social Media

The Grammy Awards has done a very good job of integrating social media into their show production, and you can see by contrast that the Academy Awards are still trying to figure things out. It was interesting to note that, at least when I looked at Twitter, #oscars2013 was trending while #oscars, the hashtag promoted on-screen during the telecast, was not.  While the social commenting numbers looked strong, the truth of the matter is, you’re far more likely to get the bassist from Mumford and Sons to play along than you are Robert DeNiro, and so generating online heat from those in attendance is never going to be something the Oscars can rely on.


There were two clear winners from last night – Samsung and Grey Poupon. Samsung creatively strung together a series of commercials into one cohesive story, featured their product, integrated a relevant star – respected Hollywood director Tim Burton – and had me asking for more opportunities to engage with the story.

Grey Poupon was also a big winner. They not only revived a classic spot, but cleverly added some modern twists. The extended storyline was well executed in its absurdity and the kicker was, after watching the video, they asked you to watch again with a gamified ‘find the clues’ element for a sweepstakes entry. Well played, chaps.

Creating Content in Real-Time

The success of Oreo’s Super Bowl ‘tweet heard round the world’ has put a spotlight on real-time marketing. The truth is, even if you are fully prepared with all the tools and all the talent, it can still be a crapshoot. I watched with fingers poised above my laptop from Red Carpet to final number, disseminating a constant stream of snarky comments, witty bon mots and heartfelt props to those I deemed worthy. The result?  More than 100 retweets and replies, mostly with people who don’t follow me, but who saw my tweets in the #oscars2013 stream. The insight? It’s a numbers game. You’re going to have to tweet a lot to get a couple that stick, and you’re probably going to have to be edgy as well.  As of now, most brands aren’t willing to do that.


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