The Oscars: The Most Successful PR Stunt Ever
Confession: I love the Oscars. From the age of 7 until I realized that I need a steady job (20) I wanted to be a film director. In addition, I wrote film reviews for about three years at the Examiner. I own over 250 DVDs (yeah I know, I am old school). I still try to see every film that is nominated, that I have an interest in. There is no substitute for a great movie. This years Oscars were a bit surprising (when Michelle Obama came up on-screen I was a little shocked, and proceeded to boldly claim that Zero Dark Thirty would win because Michelle as a political statement was an interesting card to play with US Military personnel behind her, I can write about that later though). I was surprised that Argo beat Zero Dark Thirty (and secretly hoped for Beasts of the Southern Wild to win everything). Rooting for someone in itself is an interesting phenomenon. It is one of the many reasons I love the Oscars, because it exploits the most basic emotional ties.
All too often actors and actresses can reach out and touch a person’s life and make them feel as though they completely capture what ever experience that audience member is feeling. All too often that actor/actress is the one that above mentioned audience member is rooting for when the awards come around. This is a fascinating use of emotions but I do not want to get into the psychology of how movies relate to people. Rather, something more in my field. I want to write about how the Oscars were invited for, and still are some of, the best PR ever.
To understand the beauty of creating the Oscars it is important to understand the beauty of lists. We all make lists, whether they are grocery lists, things to do before noon (which I never get accomplished), or lists of web pages to check out, we love lists. One reason is that we love crossing things off of lists. That triumphant feeling when you cross something off the list is a great feeling (rivaled only by when you accomplish something really great, like finish an entire pizza by yourself). The Oscars are Hollywood’s glorified way to make us feel we are missing a list, a list of the greatest movies this year. The Oscars themselves are pretty meaningless, sorry to those who feel like I just told Santa is fake, but they are. They get to say the word “this was the best picture of 2012.” Because a movie won the Oscar for X Y or Z category (usually not set direction or costume) it will get added revenue because everyone assumes “oh it won an Oscar.” It is a brilliant plan. Hollywood has, somewhat arbitrarily, listed out the movies that you HAVE TO SEE. Why? Because a made up award ceremony where people fret over dresses and how raunchy the host will be (I was disappointed Mr. MacFarlane), tell you to.
The Oscars mean something because we give them meaning. We assign meaning to things that we feel we understand to be important and in turn we feel rewarded when that meaning pays off. When you go see Argo (assuming you have not yet; it was fantastic), there will be a part of you, be it small, that will feel great because you just saw the Best Picture. These lists that we are told, but should not necessarily trust, dictate our movie watching habits to no end. It is absurd but when they tell us, “these are the cream of the crop” we listen and tune in.
I worked in TV PR for a semester as an Account Executive at BUTV10 (our student run TV station) through BU PRLab, the oldest student run PR agency in the country. They had won multiple awards (and they were prestigious even) but no one cared. Why did no one care that they won these awards? They deserved the awards for the shows! Why wouldn’t anyone care? Because the awards themselves need credibility. Credibility is given by the people who watch awards. There is no other way to get that credibility. Circular logic at its finest.
It is crucial, however, to tell you all that the highlight of my night was none of the speeches (all sub par though Affleck’s tears seemed legit). The highlight of my night/ the reason I watched the show was for Adele. To paraphrase one of my favorite graphic novels (Sin City) “she sounds like angels ought to sound.” Bellow I have included the link to her performance because, yes, it was that good.
Adele video – my highlight http://www.mediaite.com/tv/watch-adele-performs-skyfall-at-the-oscars/