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Awards Season Is Here: Is House Advertising Ready?

January 12th, 2017   ||    by Todd Wasserman

Awards season has always been a big deal for advertisers, but it has become an even bigger deal in recent years as live events have proven to be rare opportunities to amass umpteen people at a given time. Awards shows may have reached their high-water mark in 2014, when the Golden Globes posted a decade-long ratings high, the Grammy Awards logged its second-most-watched telecast since 1993, and the American Music Awards, the CMAs, the Emmys, the Tonys, the People’s Choice Awards, and the BET Awards all set records or posted their highest ratings in years, according to Advertising Age.

While ratings have dropped off since that record year, according to PopCrush, there are still reasons for advertisers to tie in with awards shows. Among them, these shows continue to prompt discussion on Facebook and Twitter, providing opportunities for brands to engage in the conversation with real-time marketing.

Play the Game of Data

In addition to amassing relatively large audiences, awards shows offer brands an entree to social media engagement, since the shows tend to elicit real-time discussion in social media. For instance, last year’s Grammy Awards generated 7.6 million tweets, and the Oscars prompted 7.2 million tweets, figures that trounced the 435,000 tweets that the scripted Walking Dead received for its most-tweeted episode, according to Adweek.

Awards shows are also DVR-proof. Since they provide fodder for next-day water cooler conversations and the winners are widely reported in the media, time-shifted viewing doesn’t make sense. Sports games are similar, but unlike sports, awards shows tend to draw a large female audience.

Despite the strong social media response associated with awards shows, some draw an older audience—notably the Tonys, says the International Business Times. That’s not true across the board, though. The BET Awards and the Grammys tend to draw viewers in the 18-to-49 demo in greater numbers than competing shows. But the average age for an Emmy viewer was 56.4 in 2013, according to Forbes. To reach young viewers, nothing beats the Video Music Awards, whose average viewer age is 26.6.

Don’t Lose Your Head

For advertisers, the social media engagement continues to be a draw. They’ve harnessed award-show discussion power by prompting provocative conversation with hashtags. In 2015, Dove took this approach with its #SpeakBeautiful campaign. Dove, noticing that most body-image-related comments women post on Twitter were negative, tired to counter the negativity with positive tweets. Dove drew 51,000 tweets on Oscar night that included the hashtag, reported The Los Angeles Times.

The gold standard for such tie-ins is Oscars host Ellen DeGeneres’ star-studded selfie with a Samsung phone in 2014, which was the result of Samsung’s $20 million ad-buying and placement strategy, as The Wall Street Journal reported. But marketers know well that real-time marketing is tricky. DiGiorno Pizza drew negative attention during the 2015 Oscars for a tasteless reference to ovens as a tribute to a movie about Nazis was running, according to Digiday. Other tweets from Denny’s and Barney’s fell flat as each strained to find something relevant to say.

For media buyers and sellers, awards shows continue to represent an oasis—albeit a changing one—for advertisers who are looking to get their brands in front of a large live audience that’s active on social media. As the awards shows themselves risk becoming hit-or-miss affairs in terms of audience size, marketers might consider them simply as another entree in the menu of TV options during this year’s awards season and beyond.

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