The Marketing Behind Oscar Campaigns

An Oscar from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is the highest achievement an actor, actress, director etc. can receive during his or her career. With that being said, it is (obviously) very difficult to receive one. The performance needs to be recognized by the Academy and has to be deemed better than any other performance in its category. However, it is not as black and white as it appears. There are a lot of politics that come with the Oscars, and anything from the nominee’s race to his/her personality can be a factor in the Academy’s decisions. Yet the most powerful tool in any Oscar campaign is the marketing behind it.

Estimates predict that Oscar campaigns for Best Picture can cost anywhere from three to ten million dollars to lobby the voters, which is an absurd amount of money when the nominees are not even guaranteed a win. There are a decent amount of best picture nominees that are indie films and made with smaller budgets than the larger blockbusters, so in some cases the campaign costs more than the actual movie does. The goal is to reap rewards of the business, and when a best picture wins the Oscar, they are guaranteed to gain box office numbers, DVD sales, and a surplus of digital downloads. Estimates have proven that a best picture winner can make (on average) $13.8 million more than their competitors.

In order for a best picture to win, the lobbying money is spent on lavish parties, large advertisements, and sending advanced screenings to voters. Voters are typically former nominees or established Hollywood figureheads, so the goal of the current nominees are to figure the best way to advertise to them. An example of impressive lobbying in this year’s Oscar campaign is “The Shape of Water”, which was made on a budget of $19.5 million, one of the larger budgets of the best picture nominees. Now, after receiving thirteen nominations, advertisements have began popping up all over the place with “for your consideration” attached to it. On Rotten Tomatoes, you can not even continue to the site without seeing some type of advertisement for the heavily nominated film, which is a common website for film critics to view and post their reviews. This emphasizes the power of marketing: it is everywhere. The constant advertisements makes it difficult for the voters to forget about the films once it is time for them to cast their votes.

When an actor or actress wins an Academy Award, they can expect an increase in their asking price for movies. However, there is a pay gap between the men and the women. While men can receive a pay increase of up to 4 million dollars, while women normally only receive an increase of $500,000. Normally this has to do with the fact that men receive more action roles than women and star in more movies in general, which is why the pay gap is present and an issue.

In order for an actor or actress to win, a lot of their victory depends on their personality, in addition to their performance. A good example is when Leonardo DiCaprio received his Best Actor nomination for his performance in “The Revenant”. Most of the time, DiCaprio is a rather reserved, quiet actor who does rarely appears on talk shows and likes to live a private life. Yet for his Oscar-winning role in 2016, he appeared much more frequently to promote his performance and talk about himself, much to the delight of audiences and voters. Another good example is Brie Larson’s run during the same year, for her performance in “Room”. To promote herself, she met with a lot of the voters and let her sweet, charming personality lead the way for her win. A little bit of openness can have a large impact on the voters, and can lead the way to victory.

Another important marketing technique is advertising for the award shows leading up to the Oscars (Golden Globes, SAG Awards, etc.). While they are not perfect at predicting awards for picture or director, the Golden Globes have a ninety percent accuracy at predicting the acting awards. If an actor/actress wants the best chance at winning, they need to perform well enough at the award shows before the Oscars. For example, Gary Oldman, Frances McDormand, Sam Rockwell, and Allison Janney have swept the four acting categories in every award show leading up to the Oscars. Because of this, they are all undeniably the frontrunners for their categories, and are all very likely to receive an Oscar when the time comes. The year before, Viola Davis, Emma Stone, and Casey Affleck all won Golden Globes for their performances, with the only exception being Mahershala Ali. However, at the SAG awards, Davis, Ali, and Stone took home the win in their categories, and the exception there was Affleck. However, those four went on to get their little golden man, in addition to/because of their smaller wins.

The road to an Oscar is not the performance, that is just the starting point. In order to achieve a best picture, actor, or actress nod, the nominee has to have a great marketing campaign. Actors and actresses have to be personable, relatable, and have a good image, while the best picture has to be prominent and recognizable. At the end of the day, it might just be a little gold statue—-but business is business, and its meaning carries far more value than just a trophy.


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