The Oscars: Time To Change… Please!

The Oscars is the ultimate, star-studded, classy extravaganza in our annual calendars and yet the morning after the 83rd event, I have to admit that I am left feeling a little sad and disappointed.

Now my comments that follow are not directed at any one of the mediocre thank-you speeches or at the disproportionate focus in last night’s show on the Academy of the past. No, my concerns are centered fairly and squarely on the obsolete and restrictive format which makes the three hour event (not of course counting the pre-show) a bit like root canal treatment and certainly not the uplifting and inspiring performance it should be…and used to be.

And that’s because the world has changed and the Oscars hasn’t.

If I am being completely honest, I don’t think I can watch another one…although I have said that for some years yet somehow, between this last show and the next, I forgive the organizers totally and return to the event, hoping for a transformation. But it never comes.

So for a moment, let’s think of the Oscars as a brand. Now that statement in itself might be heresy for some but please give me a moment to outline my thoughts. I see four issues that, in my opinion, need to be resolved, if the Oscars is to survive and thrive in the dynamic media and entertainment world in which we now reside. Incidentally, each of these issues are challenges that many brands face everyday:

oscar_blue1.    The first issue concerns the target audience. And a simple question – is the show aimed at the professional movie-making community or the general public who pay to see the end results? Because it is becoming clearer and clearer that in todays complex and fragmenting media world, appealing to both at the same time is no longer an option. In fact, it is responsible for causing a serious case of brand schizophrenia.

2.    The second point is about the overall brand connection. Brand success today involves isolating the best way to create a conversation and a dialogue with your audience, not to just talk at them. In this regard, the way that the Oscars brand communicates feels really old- fashioned. It feels like another case of “my father’s Oldsmobile” and look what happened to them!!

3.    While we would agree whole-heartedly that great brands are built from the inside-out, we also passionately believe that consumers are playing a greater and greater role in the process. Across many categories of everyday life, more consumers are becoming producers, and the Oscars presents a unique opportunity to acknowledge the value of consumer co-creation in today’s creative arena and to celebrate the best of breed in this department.

4.    Successful brands today are dynamic and have to constantly change with the times to survive. And brand innovation is a mandatory part of the tool-kit needed for change. But I am not seeing or feeling the Oscars brand innovation quotient, either in content, in channel, in format or in tone of voice. A healthy appetite for Innovation allows a brand to keep in sync with its audience and to feel contemporary and relevant, while still of course being true to its roots.

If this all sounds negative, it’s born out of a clear understanding that for brands to survive, they must change with the times. Nobody likes change but without a regular injection of it, brands run the risk of losing their appeal, their relevance and their role. I feel that this is happening to the Oscars brand. But because the process is organic and happens over time, brand owners often fail to take the sort of radical surgery necessary to reposition and redirect the brand. Sometimes, they don’t know what to do, sometimes, they don’t even know they have a problem.

We love the Oscars – they have been a part of our lives for many years but without change, they risk being marginalized and nobody, including myself, would ever wish for that.

Simon Williams

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