Advertisers hold breath for big Oscars show

Fri Feb 22, 2008 8:40am EST
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By Paul Thomasch

NEW YORK (Reuters) - When Hollywood writers voted last week to call off a strike against television and film studios, General Motors, J.C. Penney and other advertisers set aside fears the Oscars broadcast would be canceled.

But that doesn't mean they'll be worry-free on Sunday when ABC broadcasts the Academy Awards, the second biggest U.S. advertising event of the year behind only the Super Bowl.

Much is at stake for advertisers who paid an average of about $1.8 million for a 30-second spot in this year's broadcast, up 7 percent from a year ago.

Along with GM and J.C. Penney, commercials will be run by McDonalds, American Express, MasterCard, Coca-Cola and Unilever, among others.

Like the Super Bowl, many of the commercials will be eye-catching and never before seen. But Oscar advertisements favor style and fashion, whereas commercials run during football championship lean heavily on comedy.

"It's more fashionable and it's definitely not funny," said Carolyn Hadlock, creative director and principal for advertising agency Young & Laramore. "It's more aspirational."

Until last week, the annual awards show honoring the best of movies appeared in jeopardy because of the strike. Earlier this year, the strike turned Golden Globes broadcast into a simple news conference -- a similar outcome for the Oscars would have created a major disruption for advertisers.

Arguably, the Oscars broadcast today is more important than ever to advertisers, with prime-time TV viewership shrinking and commercials more frequently skipped by an audience equipped with TiVos and other digital video recorders.   Continued...

<p>Workers carry a large Oscar poster in front of the Kodak Theatre in preparation for the 80th annual Academy Awards in Hollywood February 20, 2008. The Oscars will be presented on February 24. REUTERS/Hector Mata</p>