Brands can bridge the gap between audiences and the kingmakers of film awards
Were you blindsided by the winners of this year’s Oscars ceremony? Apple’s Coda swooped in as the first film from a streaming service to win an Oscar – scoring over Netflix’s The Power of the Dog. Although obviously this was disrupted by Will Smith’s slap-happy actions. Laura Rutkowski, senior staff writer at Virgin TV Edit at Redwood BBDO, considers the successes of the night.
The movies that win the awards and the movies that win the hearts of audiences may not align
Call me optimistic, but I think over the lovelier clips of Oscars night and hope that they will continue to be sought out by people in the long term. There were so many inclusive moments featuring diversity – like Coda, which features a predominantly deaf cast; Ariana DeBose’s win as the first openly queer woman of color for West Side Story; and this exchange between Lady Gaga and Liza Minelli. These stories are meaningful, genuine and authentic.
But of course, the Oscars is – by its very nature – elitist. The pictures that inspire and move everyday cinema-goers are not those that receive rapturous reviews from judges. If the people had their vote, Spider-Man: No Way Home would likely have added some golden trophies to its $798m+ box office grossing total.
Oscar wins predictions based on audience votes from IMDb and Rotten Tomatoes scores show the gulf between critics and regular cinema-goers. West Side Story was tipped to win more trophies including Best Director and Best Costume Design.
And the mind-frazzling multiverse presented in Spider-Man: No Way Home or the kinetic martial arts and mayhem in Shang-Chi and The Legend of The Ten Rings were audience frontrunners to win Best Visual Effects – which actually went to Dune, not an audience favourite.
Reignite the connection
This divide is growing in the post-pandemic era.
Streaming services such as Disney+ have surged in popularity, blending with the habits and behaviors of modern audiences. This shift has seen movies including Encanto perform poorly in the box office, but enjoy sell-out sofa-subscriptions.
You could also argue that the gap between those-who-consume and those-who-crown is reflected in the running time of nominated movies.
Only one film nominated for Best Picture – Belfast – has a running time of under ninety minutes. The rest are significantly longer. How does this contrast with shorter modern attention spans? Is there space for these movies in a TikTok era of consumption?
Of course, high-quality long-form content isn’t going anywhere.
The Oscars reveal the available opportunity for rekindling connections between those who are awarded and those who watch. Brands can play a rewarding role in bridging that gap.
Audiences, attention and authenticity
I May Destroy You was one of 2020’s critically-acclaimed TV shows. The drama was created, written, co-directed and executive produced by the extraordinary Michaela Coel.
Last year, Michaela won the prestigious award of Leading Actress at the Baftas. As part of Redwood Studio’s work with Bafta partner Virgin Media, we produced a number of social assets around it – take a look at this short clip. You can tangibly feel the raw emotion emanating from the star.
“Not only is Arabella someone who is very close to me, I feel like she represents a lot of women who aren’t really seen on television. She’s messy and she’s not perfect.”
Audiences at home could feel the power of her response; and that was our mission. To put a spotlight on the unique, emotional role television played in our lives during the Covid-19 pandemic. As well as producing social media content during the show, we created a hero film celebrating the nominees of the Virgin Media Must-See Moment award – the only award at the Virgin Media Baftas voted for by the public.
The Baftas set the benchmark for TV. We knew we needed to match this quality – but on a lean budget and a tight deadline.
We created a long-form piece following award-winning travel presenter Cassam Looch on a TV-themed adventure show spanning six cities. The heart of the film captured real people talking about six shortlisted TV moments to encapsulate how telly provided escapism and togetherness during the pandemic.
Blending high-quality long-form and short-form video content proved effective. Audiences were tangibly engaged with the awards and they had their say – while also getting closer to the artists who had become part of their lives during lockdown.
Virgin Media became the connective tissue between these passion points. The brand saw record levels of engagement on social media. For instance, Mark Hamill brought the Force when he shared the Instagram film celebrating Luke Skywalker’s cameo in The Mandalorian – it received 120K organic likes within 48 hours.
Brands are bridges
What wins the minds of judges and audiences may never align. But film will always be a powerful storytelling vehicle.
For brands, content can shorten the distance between Hollywood and home. Virgin Media’s campaign brought people closer to the artists, shows and movies they care about.
The possibility of creating high-quality content on a small budget with a tight turnaround is now a reality. Content doesn’t need to win an Oscar to be effective at capturing the hearts of audiences.
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