Oscar 2006: All-Time Record for Ads during Oscar Show

Feb 22, 2007–Oscar ad rates push the envelope
this year, with companies spending $1.7 million for a 30-second spot, an all-time Academy Award record.

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) and ABC would like to thank General Motors, Bank of America, J.C. Penney and many others for shelling out $1.7 million for every 30-second spot during Sunday's Oscar telecast.

The advertisers also feel as if they're getting their money's worth. The 79th annual Academy Awards will probably be one of the largest and most prestigious TV events of the year, with an expected audience of about 40 million viewers.

The Oscar show is also one of the increasingly few events with enough built-in suspense for most viewers to watch in real time, rather than digitally record the show so they can zip past the ads.

That's one reason advertisers are willing to pay an Oscar record price for a 30-second spot, an uptick from last year's $1.6 million, despite a droop in the show's ratings in recent years.

Rules of the Ads Game

Not all advertisements are welcome. AMPAS disallows any ads for movies because it wants to avoid even the appearance of a conflict of interest. Also barred are commercials that feature participants in the Oscar telecast, including presenters and nominees.

Hence, American Express won't be airing its commercials starring Ellen DeGeneres during the broadcast because she is the emcee of this year's show.

Madison Avenue loves the glamour and the stories that come out of the Oscars. Adding to the show's appeal is the range of Oscar nominees, from well-known stars such as Clint Eastwood and Leonardo DiCaprio to Jennifer Hudson, who went from obscurity to front-runner in the race for best supporting actress for her role in “Dreamgirls.”

Another big selling point is the show's appeal among women. The show typically brings in the largest TV audience of women for the year. That has led the event to be dubbed the “Super Bowl for Women.”

That's a key selling point for advertisers such as J.C. Penney Co., beauty product maker L'Oreal and even automotive giant General Motors Corp. Each of the three paid to be the exclusive advertiser in its particular category, locking out its rivals from the show.

GM, which has been advertising in the Oscars since 1989, bought three 30-second spots this year to promote its Cadillac line and two 60-second spots, including one for its Saturn line.

Several of this year's advertisers are using the Oscar telecast to introduce products, services or marketing campaigns. Bank of America chose the Oscar show to mark its return to prime-time network advertising and launch its marketing campaign, “Bank of Opportunity.”

MasterCard has produced a 60-second ad, directed by Hollywood's Jim Sheridan, to introduce PayPass, which allows credit card holders to make purchases for under $25 without a signature.

J.C. Penney, which is making its sixth consecutive appearance in the Oscars, is thrilled with the date of the show, which moved up this year from early March. The company considers being in the Oscars a coup: Next to the Super Bowl, it's the biggest stage out there for advertisers.

In some ways, advertisers said, the awards can provide a less frenetic atmosphere than the Super Bowl, which often becomes a game of one-upmanship among marketers competing to present clever ads often at the expense of a product.