March 1, 2011: The 83rd Annual Academy Awards show on Feb. 27 had best actor, best actress and best picture awards and a theater filled with Hollywood's elite.
But while stars were getting face time during the telecast on ABC, celebrities such as Drew Barrymore, Alicia Keys, Carrie Underwood, Nelly, Eminem and the late Michael Jackson were part of marketing for brands including CoverGirl, HP, Olay, Target, Ford, Brisk and Nintendo.
According to licensing and consultancy firm GreenLight, nearly one in four ads shown during the Academy Awards included a celebrity, up 47% from 2010; and 35% of all ads included either a star endorsement or licensed music, up 26% from 2010.
"Brands and Hollywood are back in bed after the recession, but they are going about it in noticeably simpler and more understated way," David Reeder, vp for Los Angeles-based GreenLight, said in a statement. "With so many stars featured during the show itself, brands decided not to try to compete and focused on more subtle integrations like voiceovers and existing footage of celebs rather than bombastic endorsements."
Thirty-second spots during the Oscars sold out a month before the show and cost $1.7 million, up from $1.5 million in 2010, according to GreenLight. An average of 41.3 million people in the U.S. watched the Oscars ceremony in 2010, a 14% increase from the year before, but that figure was down in 2011 to 37.6 million.
In its post-Oscar Ad Gauge report, which the firm also does for the Grammy Awards, GreenLight gave a thumbs up to Ford Explorer and its tie-in with musician Nelly and HP for its alliance with Alicia Keys and Dr. Dre. In addition, GreenLight green lit ads from Diet Coke, Nokia and Hyundai.
Hyundai was the show's exclusive car sponsor for the third consecutive year, running two ads in the pre-show and seven during the show. According to GreenLight, the automaker had to do some creative steering around a rule set by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences that allows nominees to be featured in ads, but prohibits those commercials from airing within an hour of their category or the star's appearance during the ceremony.
Hyundai has an ongoing campaign featuring the voice of Jeff Bridges, who was nominated for True Grit. "Hyundai cleverly tapped Jason Bateman to fill in – and benefited from all the resulting buzz," said Reeder.
However, the Ad Gauge report was less enamored with Nintendo Wii's use of a computer-rendered version of Michael Jackson to support its Michael Jackson: The Experience product. "This undoubtedly made sense on paper but the execution left us wanting the original," wrote GreenLight.
Likewise, GreenLight had a problem with Gillette's pitch for its Venus razor using Jennifer Lopez, offering, "There is . . . something out of sync in the association between a celebrity of Lopez's caliber and the mundane and somewhat intimate act of shaving her legs."
"Brands and Hollywood are back in bed after the recession, but they are going about it in noticeably simpler and more understated way."
Also coming under scrutiny was the music used by marketers to support their ads. "This was not a great year for the music industry though – there was a big decline in licensed music in ads," said Reeder. "During the recession, music licensing held up because it can be more affordable than endorsements, and it now seems to be falling back as advertisers shift back to bigger celebrity tie ups."
GreenLight said the results of its Ad Gauge stud of the Oscars "mirrored results of the GreenLight Ad Gauge of the Grammys, finding that about one in three ads currently is featuring some entertainment integration and one in four ads a celebrity endorsement."