Do the Academy Awards Know What Their Viewers Want?

By Samantha Stallard, Director of Marketing & Business Development

Kevin Hart is hosting. No, he's not. Someone's hosting, but we don't know who (not The Rock though, because he already declined). Okay, no one's hosting. We know you guys hate production categories, so we'll cut to commercial during those! Wait, it seems you love them now, so we'll air them. Don't worry, not every Best Song nominee will be performed. Damn, you want all of those, too? In the past few months, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and Oscar ceremony producers faced consistent backlash for changes they announced — it seemed the awards show not only didn't understand the type of content their viewers want to watch, but didn't care, either.

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Imagine a marketer planning an event without considering the wants and needs of their guests. Then, spending the month before constantly updating and pivoting the plan based on negative feedback. Not only would this be an exhausting and expensive process, but a wasteful one, too. To answer the question posed in this article's title no, the Academy Awards did not know what their viewers wanted. Instead, viewers had to teach them what they expected in a consistent and united feedback flow following every wrong-choice announcement.

Luckily for us, they pulled it off in the end.

First, they relaxed the annual obsession with cutting down the Oscars run-time. There will simply never be a show that clocks in at a tight 180 minutes, there are too many categories, too many longggggg walks to the stage, and too many publicists and managers to thank. This year went 18 minutes over and that's fine. Oscar-viewers know this when we begin watching red carpet coverage in the early afternoon. We are in it for the long haul, and sure, some of us might break to do the dishes or keep up with the Kardashians, but we all unite again for the Best Picture category at the end of the night.

The lack of host might have began as a PR nightmare that couldn't be solved, but it ended up bringing a sense of newness and drama to the show that the Oscars hasn't experienced since we all watched Anne Hathaway shoot eye darts at James Franco in 2011. According to Vanity Fair writer, Sonia Saraiya,

"The night held a sense of real excitement about what would happen next, as the lack of one clear front-runner made nearly every category seem like a potential surprise. It felt a bit as if the audience had taken over the awards show; without anyone onstage who was ostensibly in charge, every presenter got to briefly take over the show for the seconds they were onstage. The first category of the night, supporting actress, was presented by the ideal hosting trio of Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, and Maya Rudolph. The final award was presented by screen siren Julia Roberts in shocking pink, sealing the show with her million-dollar smile and a soft touch of unimpeachable glamour."

Though there were constant whispers that this year's show was dead on arrival, Disney-ABC TV confirmed last week that it had filled all commercial inventory during Sunday night's broadcast, confirming big brands' trust that viewers would tune-in, even as they were shouting on Twitter that they wouldn't.

The sense of community established by the host-less show, appeared even before Adam Lambert opened the night with the surviving members of Queen. We've become accustomed to the red carpet being a battleground where opinion collides with taste. However, seemingly in tandem with the entertainment industry itself, the carpet transformed into a surprisingly diverse and welcoming place, dialing down the negative voices. According to Vogue writer, ,

"Risks yielded the event’s big wins: a series of show-stopping metallic gowns embellished to the hilt (Emma Stone in Louis Vuitton; Brie Larson in Celine), the deployment of pink as a power color (Gemma Chan in Valentino Couture; Kacey Musgraves in Giambattista Valli), and a man who left the standard tux behind (Billy Porter in Christian Siriano) and a teen who embraced classic suiting (Elsie Fisher in Thom Browne). Even awards season veterans had fun playing against type (Rachel Weisz in Givenchy Couture, Charlize Theron in Dior), pulling out fantastical looks to add drama to cinema’s biggest night."

By the end of the night, Oscar viewers felt satisfied and vindicated — minus "Green Book" somehow taking home Best Picture, a déjà vu moment reminiscent of "Driving Miss Daisy" stealing the statue from Spike Lee's "Do the Right Thing" nearly 30 years ago (though Lee finally got his recognition, winning best adapted screenplay for “BlacKkKlansman”). However, most consumers aren't so accommodating, so be sure your next event doesn't follow the 2019 Oscar model.


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