Oscars Ads Sell Out as Disney Hopes for Rebuild After Ratings Fall (EXCLUSIVE)

No matter how many awards categories get screen time at this year’s Oscars telecast, one thing will be certain: There will be advertising around them.

Disney has sold all the 60 commercial slots it has around its coming broadcast of the event late last week, according to Rita Ferro, president of Disney Advertising Sales, and the company hopes the 2022 version of the program will serve as a “rebuild year” for the spectacle after the coronavirus pandemic severely crimped moviegoing.

“We are all coming back to getting social and going out,” says Ferro, in an interview, and Disney’s ABC and the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences have agreed to make changes to the show after it has run into strong viewership headwinds in recent years. Executives, she says, have worked to solve the question of “how do we make the show more compelling, more relevant to audiences?”

Among the changes: a trio of female hosts — Amy Schumer, Wanda Sykes and Regina Hall — after three years of programs without a designated person to lead the crowd; a new producer, Will Packer; and a decision to award several categories during off-air moments, then edit those presentations in later n a bid to streamline the event, which is often criticized for being too long. Ratings for the program are often determined by the popularity of its best picture nominees, which this year include “West Side Story,” “Dune,” “King Richard” and “Belfast.”

“The three female hosts are diverse and funny and really have unique audiences that they represent,” says Ferro. Meanwhile, Packer is being given leeway “to come in and innovate,” she says. “He has a different perspective, and I think that’s what the show needs.”

Interest in the glitzy extravaganza has flagged during the pandemic. The 2021 Oscars broadcast on ABC drew an average of 10.4 million viewers — the smallest audience for the event on record and a 56% drop from the 23.6 million viewers who watched the show in 2020. The tumble comes alongside audience declines for other award shows, including the Emmys and Grammys.

Viewer erosion has begun to have a noticeable effect on ad support for the show. In 2021, the Oscars nabbed around $115.3 million in advertising revenue, according to Kantar, a tracker of ad spending. But that figure represented a 10.7% dip from the nearly $129.2 million ABC generated from commercials in 2020.

Disney’s Ferro says the company has secured Oscars advertising commitments from “a super wide range of advertisers” spanning 14 different marketing categories. Disney has sought between $1.7 million and $2.2 million for a 30-second ad, according to media buyers and other executives familiar with negotiations. The average price for a commercial in recent weeks has been $1.71 million, according to Standard Media Index, an ad spending tracker. Ferro says some longtime sponsors of the show enjoy better rates, but ABC has sold commercials in its “traditional range of pricing.”

In a switch from normal procedure, however, she says more sponsors bought the event in the industry’s “scatter” market, or closer to air time, rather than during the “upfront,” or the market for ad time bought in advance. That reflects some of the pressures the pandemic has created, with coronavirus protocols making it tougher to determine months ahead of time whether an in-person Oscars would even be feasible.

No matter the issues facing the show, many advertisers remain eager to take part. The Oscars remains one of TV’s bigger entertainment events, and the 2022 broadcast includes Crypto.com, Pfizer, Rolex and Verizon as some of its top sponsors — the first time a cryptocurrency company has advertised in the event.

Look for streamers to get the word out about their offerings during the program. WarnerMedia’s CNN will run a 30-second ad during the telecast, urging the broad crowd to sign up for CNN Plus ,the company’s new subscription-based streaming service, which is slated to launch just two days after the Oscars. CNN booked the sponsorship about two months ago, says Rick Lewchuk, senior vice president of creative marketing and brand standards of CNN Worldwide. “To have that kind of big-tent offering a couple of days before we are launching the product was a real natural for us,” he says in an interview.  Other streamers running ads include Discovery Plus, Disney Plus, Paramount Plus and Peacock.

Macy’s, the large retailer, intends to run two ads during the Oscars and the event’s pre-show, according to a person familiar with the matter. The commercials will put a spotlight on individuality and personal style as well as Macy’s curated assortment of fashions during an event that is know for its red-carpet couture, this person says.

Other advertisers include Amazon XCM; Anheuser-Busch’s Michelob; Bacardi’s Bombay Sapphire; Bank of America; Best Buy; Capital One; Corona; Eli Lilly; Geico; Google; Incyte; Kellogg; Kraft; Lionsgate; Lucid Motors; Mastercard; Meta; Reckitt’s Mucinex; Snapchat; State Farm; Stellantis; Subway and Walt Disney Studios.

One advertiser that isn’t seen signing up in 2022 is General Motors. The automaker has run commercials in the Oscars several times in recent years. The big marketer recently aired two celebrity-heavy commercials in the Super Bowl that reunited members of the casts of the “Austin Powers” movies and the HBO series “The Sopranos.”

Packages of Oscars advertising don’t just include national TV ads, says Adam Monaco, executive vice president at Disney Advertising Sales. Some clients also chose to buy local ads across TV stations that are part of Disney’s ABC. Others had the option to buy advertising on Hulu that could be set to stream in certain regions of the country via so-called “geotargeting.” Other Hulu options could have ads run in advance of the Oscars alongside films that have either been nominated or won a category in the past, all in an effort to tell viewers to get ready for the big event. Soon, Disney and the Academy will find out if those efforts bear fruit.

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