After a rocky lead-up to the 2019 Academy Awards ceremony, things have been progressing much more according to plan this time around for ABC, with none of the pre-telecast controversies that marred last year’s event. It’s also smooth sailing on the business side, where the network has sold out its Oscars ad inventory ahead of the Feb. 9 telecast.
This year’s 30-second spots sold for as much as $2.8 million. That’s an increase from last year’s telecast, where they went for as much as $2.6 million. According to Kantar Media, Oscars spots in 2019 averaged $1.98 million.
The 92nd Oscars are being held two weeks earlier than last year’s ceremony, and just a week after the Super Bowl, yet the schedule shift did not impact advertiser demand. ABC sold out of its Oscars ad inventory on Monday, the day after the Super Bowl.
“We are sold out,” said Jerry Daniello, svp of entertainment brand solutions at Disney Advertising Sales. “Considering this is one week after the Super Bowl, it just proves this is still the biggest night in entertainment.”
How Oscars advertising is changing
This year’s Oscars ads feature more custom creative made specifically for the ceremony. “We have seen this trend over the past several years of clients launching new creative that fits within the Oscars, targeting that audience,” Daniello said.
Academy Awards advertisers include “proud sponsors” Cadillac, Google, Rolex and Verizon, all of whom have category exclusivity during the ceremony. The “participating sponsors” include Adobe, Colgate Optic White, Discover, Disney+, FX, General Mills, Hulu, Indeed, Intuit TurboTax, Kinder Bueno, M&M’s, McDonald’s, Microsoft, The New York Times, Postmates, Quibi and Walt Disney Studios, among others.
Half of those deals were closed during Disney’s upfront.
The biggest growth categories for the 2020 Oscars were pharma and media entertainment, with streaming services like the Disney-owned Disney+ and Hulu, as well as Quibi, appearing in the ceremony.
Netflix will not be advertising on the show, as part of a new Disney strategy announced last fall under which the company will now longer run ads from its streaming rival on Disney entertainment TV properties like ABC, Freeform and FX. It continues accepting Netflix spots on ESPN and its other related sports networks. (Because Disney has an overall relationship with Quibi, that upcoming streaming service was permitted to run ads.)
For its Oscars spot, Adobe will run a colorful, trippy ode to creativity, featuring cameos from Billie Eilish and Malala Yousafzai. And The New York Times tapped actor, singer and producer Janelle Monáe to appear in its ad for The 1619 Project.
First-time Oscar brands this year include the career website Indeed. “They have a spot that talks about achievements and getting the right job and finding the right talent for this roles. It really fits within the platform of the Oscars,” Daniello said.
Several brands, including Colgate Optic White and Kinder Bueno, are using their spots to launch new products on Oscar night.
The Academy Awards will feature another 90-second isolated pod for a brand, following that offering’s debut last year for Marriott Bonvoy. One of the four “proud sponsors” will take over that pod this year.
While last week’s Super Bowl commercials featured more longform ads than in previous years, Oscars advertisers did not follow suit. “It’s less about the length and more about the content and the entertainment value and the recall that the audience will have when they see these spots. They feel like they belong in the Oscars,” Daniello said.
No host, no problem
The Oscars will be going hostless for the second straight year.
In 2019, the Oscars did not have a host for the first time in 30 years. Kevin Hart stepped down from hosting duties just two days after he got the job, following a growing controversy over old homophobic tweets that resurfaced. ABC and The Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences decided not to hire a replacement.
That paid off for ABC, as Oscar ratings rose year-over-year for the first time since 2014. A total of 29.6 million people watched 2019’s ceremony, a 12% increase from 2018’s record-low audience of 26.5 million. The telecast had a 7.7 rating among adults 18-49, a 13% jump from 2018’s 6.8, which was also a record low.
Last year’s ceremony was the most-watched entertainment telecast of 2019, with a live-plus-7 audience of 30.5 million.
Oscar Sunday generates more ad revenue for ABC than any other day of the year, according to Kantar Media. ABC generated an estimated $114 million in ad revenue during last year’s ceremony, with an additional $12 million coming from its red carpet show, for a total of $126 million. (That was a 14% decline from 2018, when the network brought in $147 million.)
Last year, Cadillac spent the most on Academy Awards commercials, with an estimated $15.4 million, according to Kantar. Verizon, Walmart and Rolex tied for second place, with $11.5 million each.
Roughly one-quarter of last year’s 172-minute Oscar ceremony—44 minutes in all—was devoted to ads, promos and PSAs, according to Kantar.
Disney also lined up three sponsors for its Live With Kelly & Ryan Oscar aftershow, which will air Monday morning: Mercedes, Hot Tools and Drinkworks.