The Oscars & Engagement

The Oscars & Engagement

The Academy Awards ceremony that took place this past Sunday night is now two days behind us and a world away in terms of these ever immediate, social media dominated times. Reviews have been posted, opinions shared, controversies discussed. But as this year’s lackluster show fades into a memory, we think it is important to tackle an issue that the producers were clearly trying to address in the last few telecasts – and continually fail at accomplishing – reaching a specific audience.

Reaching a demographic or an audience, in this particular case a younger one, isn’t about spokespersons or endorsements – the most popular of celebrities from a social perspective are readily available at all times. Seeing them on a large stage like this isn’t the spectacle it once was. The Oscars telecast is not the spectacle it once was. In an era of immediate news, relying on traditional wisdom of people needing to know who wins is negated by up-to-the-minute updates on multiple platforms. And on top of the teetering relevancy, the show is struggling in that it is not understanding the main problem – it can’t reach it’s audience because it is not bothering to engage with it.

The Academy Awards is an excellent example of a lost opportunity for engagement.  Showing celebrities talking about being famous, how their lives are different as movie stars, what the movies mean to them is pandering – is not engaging.  Showing a montage of movie clips that was inherently disjointed, with movies that are tired and dated – is not educating your audience. No consistent design element across all of the categories and presentations – is not showing there was even a solid message that was trying to be conveyed.

Here was an opportunity to celebrate the now of the industry and get a larger audience excited about diving into the medium. Providing more background on the movies that were nominated is such a simple concept but one that can bring a broader, behind the scenes look that is otherwise unavailable through other mediums. Discussing the thousands of extras showing up for “Moneyball” stadium scenes, providing background on the characters referenced in “The Artist” (Singing in the Rain, Douglas Fairbanks), enlightening the audience on other Terrence Malick movies, the books & background on “The Descendants” and “The Help” – all of these opportunities point to ways of making the audience feel closer to the material being discussed while providing content between the lesser awards.

Engagement is more than the act of communicating with your audience, it is more than adding hashtags to promotional materials, having a live voting process, or having a certain number of likes on different networks – it is having content important enough to be discussed on a large scale. The Academy Awards needs to re-focus on creating an experience that people have to see to be a part of the cultural zeitgeist again.

People that comment on how Billy Crystal seemed more like a cruise director on a sinking, retirement age ship than the master of ceremonies of the industries premier event are not completely off base – but this criticism misses the chance to actually make the show better. Tackling the content, and not the conduit, is the best way Hollywood can help resurrect it’s greatest of traditions – patting itself on the back and allowing the world to tag along for the ride.

Reaching the next generation isn’t about bringing in younger hosts – it is giving that audience a reason to pay attention and watch. Better engagement doesn’t hurt the audience you already have – it makes you a more watchable event for everyone.

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