What the Oscars Can Teach Us About Marketing

March 9th, 2010

Sunday’s 2010 Academy Awards had all the “normal” hoopla, drama, glamour and glitz that is typically associated with Oscar night in Hollywood.  One of the major storylines this year beyond “who is wearing what,” was how a blockbuster movie can be bested, as The Hurt Locker won several “Best” awards over the heavily favored, largest-grossing film of all time – Avatar.

Avatar’s use of innovative 3D cinematography is brilliant and paradigm-shifting.  And the budget for the film was nearly $400 million (production and promotion).  It was directed by one of the industry’s best, with a body of work that won a boatload of Oscars for Titanic.  Conversely, Hurt Locker was made for $15 million by lesser-known director, Kathryn Bigelow.

Besides the $2.5 billion in worldwide box office revenue differential, what was the difference between this year’s David versus Goliath?  Perhaps it was the authentic “in the trenches” missions of a military bomb squad in Baghdad, and how they were depicted throughout Hurt Locker’s storyline.

As I watched the broadcast, there were several vignettes and acceptance speeches that referenced and reinforced the art of storytelling.  And why wouldn’t that be the case?  After all, we are talking about the craft of Hollywood.

That said, there is a marketing lesson to be learned from this.  We often opt to implement costly marketing, public relations and social media campaigns utilizing the latest tools and techniques, and forget the most important component – the message and the story that must be threaded throughout it.

I am not a film critic, but the Academy spoke Sunday night, and authenticity prevailed over technology innovation, at least with respect to these two movies.

Paraphrasing one of the directors who was interviewed during the broadcast: “You can have all the tools and technology in the world, but they will not be effective if you cannot create a compelling story.”

Keep this in mind when you launch your next marketing campaign.

Domenick Cilea

Domenick founded Springboard in 1995. When he is not working on marketing, PR, branding or content strategy, Domenick can be found in a gym, on the road or pool training to survive his next triathlon.

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