Oscar Politics: Campaigns–Rachel, Rachel (1968): Directed by Paul Newman, Starring Joanne Woodward

Ad campaigns have helped small, specialized independent films that otherwise would have been buried or withstood no chance of getting nominated for the top awards.

In 1968, Rachel, Rachel, directed by Paul Newman and starring Joanne Woodward, received four nominations, including Best Picture, due to the efforts of Warren Cowan, a leading press agent. Conventional strategies were used to get free exposure for the artists in newspapers and talk shows and of course ads in the trades. But Cowan also set up private screenings for cliques of opinion-makers and public relations specialists who could get the word-of-mouth going.

A grand premiere for Rachel, Rachel was arranged in New York, with Newman and Woodward making appearances on all the TV shows. The two stars spent Labor Day posing for the cover of Life, which was not in their nature, but this movie was special to them. The campaign would not have been effective if Rachel, Rachel were not a good movie; the New York Film Critics cited Woodward as Best Actress and Newman as Best Director. Ultimately, the campaign proved more effective in the nomination process, for Rachel, Rachel did not win any award.