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And the Oscar goes to…PR Professionals

By Kelley Hopkins

This past Sunday, Hollywood’s finest arrived at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles for the 87th Academy Awards. During the ceremony, Best Supporting Actor J.K. Simmons reminded us that we are never too old to call our mothers, Best Supporting Actress Patricia Arquette advocated for gender equality, and Best Screenwriter Graham Moore touched everyone’s heart by opening up about his teenage suicide attempt.

However, these heartfelt speeches could not save the show from its low ratings. Nielsen, the audience measurement system, reported that Sunday’s telecast averaged 36.6 million viewers, which is down 16% compared to last year’s show. This was the lowest average the event has had since 2009.

From someone who knows a little too much about celebrities, I can openly admit that award-show season is my favorite season next to fall; nevertheless, I cannot help but notice how unfazed other people are at this time of year. So, what can the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) do to increase their annual broadcast ratings? The answer is unclear, however, I foresee innovative PR professionals being key players in AMPAS’s road to (rating) redemption for a few reasons.

  1. Younger demographics

The average viewer for the Academy Awards is 18-49 years old. AMPAS should put a larger focus on the younger half of this demographic and keep in mind that a majority of these adults are also students. Being a student makes it hard to make time (and afford) seeing all of the movies that receive Oscar-nods, but PR professionals can strategically communicate to this group of twenty-somethings and build a stronger relationship between them and AMPAS. Programs can be created that offer internship opportunities to aspiring PR students throughout the country that can have the interns coordinate screenings of nominated films on campus. PR professionals can send the information out to colleges as well as regulate the program: have the interns send in screening reports, take photos of giveaways, and give out rewards to the top three interns (a possible award could be to have the interns attend the actual event). Most of the time, people are unfamiliar with the films that are up for nominations, so these people do not have a reason to care about the results. If PR professionals were able to disseminate the critically acclaimed films before the event, more people may be inclined to watch the show live.

  1. Restructuring the event

Although the Academy Awards have been around since 1929 and has a renowned brand image, the event is in dire need of change. There almost needs to be seat fillers for the viewers at home because not everyone can sit down and watch the entirety of the drawn out, three and a half hour show. PR professionals can find creative ways to restructure the show to draw in a larger audience. Some possible ideas are to shorten the telecast, refrain from announcing the host until the event, or possibly incorporating viewers into the show (i.e. have the winners answer fans’ questions on Twitter). AMPAS needs PR professionals to research and evaluate ways to reshape the show as well as inform the public of the changes they make. Change may be the only way to bring back some excitement and anticipation to the Oscars.

  1. Social Media

Within the past few years, AMPAS has adapted to the digital era our society is in through its use of Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. Social media has given AMPAS a way to reach out to audiences that are not traditional Oscar fans, which has been beneficial to the Academy Awards. PR professionals should continue to promote the event using social media because it is only growing AMPAS’s audience in new demographics; in turn, this is increasing the amount of viewers. The only down side to social media is that the audience may not feel the need to watch the event live because they can use social media to see who the winners were in seconds. To prevent this from happening, PR professionals need to monitor the social media platforms throughout the show in order to create feelings like suspense or anticipation to persuade the public to watch the show live.

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