The Oscars Is Still an All-Star Destination for Advertisers

Amex, Cadillac among brands paying record rates to be in the big show

Host Chris Rock is expected to give this year's show a ratings lift. ABC/ANDRE W ECCLES

Actors, directors and costume designers aren't the only ones poised to score on Hollywood's biggest night. The Oscars remains one of the most important events of the year for advertisers.

The average cost of a 30-second spot in this year's three-hour-plus telecast Feb. 28 is expected to be $1.9 million to $2 million, a double-digit bump versus last year and an all-time record, per Kantar Media figures. (The Los Angeles Times reported that a spot could go for as high as $2.2 million.) Past sponsors expected to return this year include AT&T, General Motors, Samsung and Coca-Cola.

While not on the scale of the Super Bowl, brands still see ABC's Oscars telecast as a key venue due to its massive reach and prestige. Advertisers that broke campaigns in last year's show include American Express (which has participated in every Oscars since 1993), Dove and Cadillac.

The Oscars is also a platform for some of agencies' most memorable creative work and breakthrough brand integrations. In fact, one of Adweek's top 10 ads of 2015 debuted during the telecast—Comcast's "Emily's Oz" from Goodby Silverstein & Partners, New York, which imagined The Wizard of Oz through the eyes of a blind girl.

Another ad from Goodby that premiered in last year's show—for Adobe, celebrating the 25th anniversary of Photoshop and set to Aerosmith's "Dream On"—was also a critical favorite. And who could forget those Oscar statuettes made of Lego that were handed out to attendees? Or host Ellen DeGeneres' "epic selfie" using a Samsung Galaxy Note that broke a Twitter record two years ago?

The Oscars is also important for ABC, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences' longtime partner. The Disney-owned network, which has telecast the Oscars since 1976 and is under contract to do so through 2020, reaps in the neighborhood of $100 million in ad revenue from the event, most of that going to Ampas in return for rights to air the ceremony. But it still supplies the network a healthy profit.

There are plenty of reasons for marketers to love Oscar. The Academy Awards is one of the few live, tent-pole events remaining, one that drew 37 million viewers last year. Even though ratings were down 16 percent year-over-year, the show still ranked among the top 10 television programs of 2015. It is generally accepted that live content means better retention of ads, and fewer instances of time-shifted viewing.

Insiders predict this year's audience could be way up from last year, with Chris Rock as host. The comedian—not known as one to shy away from controversial topics—is widely expected to address the #OscarsSoWhite protest that looms over this year's proceedings. Meanwhile, the protest has had no effect on ad commitments. ABC confirms that no advertisers have dropped out of the show.

This story first appeared in the Feb. 22 issue of Adweek magazine. Click here to subscribe.

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