GG’s pop culture expert Reagan Herzog offers brand building guidance inspired by the surprising success of the 2023 Academy Awards.
With this weekend’s Academy Awards, another awards season has come to an end. Sunday’s broadcast saw the highest ratings for the show since 2020. The Oscars’ consistent growth in viewership over the past few years is a proven success and an industry anomaly, especially in contrast to sharply declining ratings for awards shows overall.
PR professionals – and not just ones in the entertainment industry – can learn valuable lessons about engaging audiences and brand building from the success of the broadcast and some of the night’s biggest winners.
Last year’s broadcast attempted to reach wider audiences by cutting several categories from the live show, opting instead to present them before the televised ceremony and include the winners in a highlight reel. Several other awards shows have attempted this tactic to mixed results – the main criticism being that removing awards from the live broadcast slights the hard work and achievements of the many artists honored in these categories. For a night dedicated to honoring the biggest achievements in cinema, the removal of certain categories felt off-brand and counterintuitive.
The choice to bring back all categories to the Oscars live broadcast this year was a positive boost for the show. Tailoring your content to engage your audience is important for every aspect of communications. The Academy provides a prime example of listening to audience feedback and pivoting in response.
Many who tuned in to this weekend’s broadcast were curious to see how the Academy addressed last year’s controversy. Host Jimmy Kimmel dealt with the subject matter with a degree of levity and humor that avoided being particularly heavy-handed or cringeworthy.
Kimmel also took a moment to address the performances of Viola Davis and Danielle Deadwyler, who were snubbed in the Best Actress category. While the Academy still has miles to go when it comes to diversity and inclusion, this moment served as a recognition of their need for progress and change.
As PR professionals, we recognize the necessity of accountability in responding to criticism. Acknowledging mistakes or wrongdoings is a critical first step in effectively addressing a crisis and building a brand known for transparency.
Without a doubt, Ke Huy Quan has been a standout of this awards season. His enthusiasm and excitement at events paired with his heartfelt acceptance speeches have made him a fan favorite.
Ke Huy Quan’s success reminds us of the importance of an authentic voice in our communications work. In a medium that historically featured stuffy speeches and insincere humility, his authenticity really shined. Encouraging our clients to speak with personality and from their unique perspective can go a long way in brand building and establishing a strong, positive reputation with audiences.
Of the 20 nominees across lead and supporting acting categories, 16 were first-time nominees. Michelle Yeoh, Brendan Fraser, Jamie Lee Curtis, and Ke Huy Quan all took home their first Oscars after decades-long careers in the industry.
It is no secret that Oscars campaigns involve much more than the performances themselves. Brand building and narrative crafting play a role in winning votes. For the performers who took home the biggest prizes of the night, their careers and stories involved years of hard work, dedication, and collaboration culminating in this ultimate recognition by their peers.
For communication professionals, this serves as a reminder that our work is often building on itself. Everything we do is a part of the larger narrative we are telling. It is in creating this momentum that we can engage audiences and secure high-profile, in-depth coverage of our clients and their work.