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The power of the public vote: the Oscars, diversity and fan favorites

By Anna Glover |

M&C Saatchi Sport & Entertainment


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March 21, 2022 | 5 min read

The Academy Awards, which is now just around the corner, has announced a new ‘fan favorite’ category, voted on by fans on social media. It follows other initiatives by entertainment awards bodies to increase diversity while making up for decreasing television viewership with online engagement. M&C Saatchi Sport & Entertainment’s Anna Glover explores the crucial role audience awards play in engaging fans and brands in the fight to stay relevant.

Ahead of this month’s Oscars, the Academy recently announced a brand-new film category – ‘fan favorite’ as voted by Twitter users. This is a move to democratize the Hollywood awards structure by giving film’s most important critic – ‘the fan’ – the deciding vote.

Ahead of The Academy Awards, M&C Saatchi reveal the rise of the audience vote.

Ahead of the Academy Awards, M&C Saatchi Sport & Entertainment reveals the rise of the audience vote

By partnering with Twitter, the show can adapt to decreasing viewing figures. As Meryl Johnson, digital marketing vice-president at the Academy, said: “We’re thrilled to partner with Twitter to help build an engaged and excited digital audience leading up to this year’s ceremony.”

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The Academy is not alone.

Brits 2022 also saw the launch of public-voted categories powered by TikTok, with a new hashtag #BRITsTok alongside exclusive content from Nathan Evans, RAYE, Joy Crookes and others. And no wonder, with 2021 digital figures up 60%, 1.7 million tuning in to watch its YouTube Livestream and post-event videos reaching 15m views. I doubt it is too worried about the recent viewing figure headlines. It knows where its audience is and how they like their content. Commercially, this provides an exciting opportunity for brands to connect with fans through not just the things that they love, but also when and where they want to.

But it’s not just declining viewing figures that award shows need to tackle to stay relevant.

There has been new focus on the suitability of gendered categories, with the Brits announcing gender-neutral awards. 47% of music fans agreed that award shows should ditch categories for men and women and instead offer combined awards. There are rumors that Bafta will follow suit, with chief executive Amanda Berry confirming recently that the subject is under consideration.

Bafta is a brilliant example of an organization tackling the most important industry issue head-on: diversity and representation of members, nominees and winners. Following a backlash in 2020, Bafta led the way by transforming the organization to be more open and inclusive, following a groundbreaking independent review that resulted in 120 changes to the voting membership and campaigning rules.

Sara Putt, deputy chair of the Academy and chair of the television committee, told Variety: “I think [Bafta] has changed, and is changing, and will continue to change. I think the review was very much about taking a long look at where we were, and how we could be better and how we could future-proof ourselves.”

But change is not so apparent everywhere.

For the Golden Globes, after many promises of reform, the HFPA failed to deliver any meaningful change. This resulted in a mass boycott, with no broadcast, no celebs and arguably now perhaps no future.

As the rest of the industry adapts to ‘future-proof’ itself, the role of the public vote will be pivotal. Not only do they galvanize fans and catapult a category into the public zeitgeist; they’re inclusive at their core. They represent what we truly love and what we can’t stop talking about. They give us the power to choose our winner. They give our water cooler moments a global stage and brands a chance to share it.

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