Don’t call it the Academy Awards; call it the #Oscars!

By CRT/tanaka’s Brand Group

On Sunday night, the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences continued its quest to appeal to a younger audience. The show enlisted Family Guy creator Seth McFarlane to host the 85th Academy Awards – oh, wait, we mean “The Oscars.” This year, the Academy decided to rebrand the program in an effort to portray a younger, more relevant tone on the heels of a hipper, sharper-tongued Golden Globes.

A declining viewership among ages 18 to 49 prompted the Academy’s desperation to attract younger viewers. The Academy was counting on McFarlane to appeal to young male viewers. As anticipated, he opened the Oscar show with a round of racy humor and one-liners that showcased his juvenile brand of humor. No offense to McFarlane. He did what he does – crass humor. If anything, he was pretty restrained and nowhere near as snarky or mean-spirited as Ricky Gervais hosting the Golden Globes, the Oscar’s fun, younger sister.

But, we think it cracked the façade a bit. In the past, the Academy has been recognized as the “legit” or “high end” awards show. This year’s approach draws back the curtain on a rating hungry group – similar to every other awards show. It’s just one more respected brand trying too hard to get Millennials’ attention.

So, for a brand that is seen as prestigious, when did tradition become a bad thing? Despite the Oscars’ attempts to portray an edgier brand, the song-and-dance-filled ceremony created a disconnect as McFarlane’s bits likely reminded viewers of the days of Bob Hope. In a performance with William Shatner, McFarlane was advised to keep it classy – which was followed by ballroom dancing, soft shoe and musical numbers reminiscent of Busby Berkeley and Broadway’s Ziegfeld Follies.

McFarlane’s envelope-pushing, pop culture-skewing comedy was in sharp contrast to the Academy’s straight-laced theme in years past, yet somehow it tried to blend with old-fashioned entertainment and a respect for Hollywood tradition. Some argue that McFarlane’s inappropriateness was a poor example of the Academy’s celebration of the art of cinema and etiquette that’s appropriate for all audiences. Conservative viewers were not impressed with the show tunes inspired number entitled “We Saw Your Boobs,” which had McFarlane calling out actresses in movies that exposed their chests. We think it seemed more suited for the MTV Movie Awards instead of the pomp and pageantry of the Oscars.

However, amidst all the glitz and glory, the Academy did find a way to reach a younger audience and demonstrate its commitment to growing and fostering the next generation of filmmakers by inviting college students to compete for a chance to be part of the awards show. By involving up-and-comers, the Academy appears to be making headway in building a new base of brand advocates – not just for the students who won the competition and attended, but for all Millennials watching their peers being treated with appreciation and respect. It was a smart move toward the Academy’s goal of engaging a younger generation. Still, the true test will be whether the Academy is committed to this initiative over the next few years. If they drop the ball or discontinue the program it will seem inauthentic, possibly damaging such a prestigious brand.

What did you think of last night’s show?

Image credits: Getty Images

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