Let's Talk Oscars

Hyundai Had a Good Night; JCPenney, Not So Good
All about the Academy Awards.
Feb. 23 2009 10:22 AM

Let's Talk Oscars

VIEW ALL ENTRIES

Greetings, Troy and Dana,

Just popping in to your Oscars party for a moment to chat about the ads. In recent years, the Oscars had begun to rival the Super Bowl as an advertising platform. This year, ratings for the Oscar telecast were expected to be low (thanks to the generally meager box office performance of the nominated films), so the ad scene was less intense. Still, the Oscars are a great venue for brands that feel at home within a context of high cheekbones and haute couture—instead of sweaty athletes and nacho dips.

Seth Stevenson Seth Stevenson

Seth Stevenson is a frequent contributor to Slate. He is the author of Grounded: A Down to Earth Journey Around the World.

Advertisement

Hyundai seems to feel comfy in both contexts, having followed multiple Super Bowl spots with a slew of Oscar ads. (I counted at least six.) The car company's pitches came from every angle: a recession-friendly guarantee that you'll get your money back if you buy a Hyundai and then lose your job, a pair of offbeat celebrity endorsements from Yo-Yo Ma and Billy Corgan, a patriotic reminder that many Hyundais are built in America. If there was a theme, it was the economic downturn. (One of the voice-over lines was "We're all in this together." Tell that to Rick Santelli!) I didn't sense a specific brand identity getting forged here, though. It's just an all-out publicity push—an attempt to plant a Hyundai flag in the consumer's brain, right next to those of Honda, Nissan, and Toyota. It's curious that Hyundai would make this bold offensive now, when Americans are buying drastically fewer cars. But the fight for market share doesn't come to a halt just because the market's shrinking.

Diet Coke is a product more obviously in tune with the Oscars vibe. I liked both of the soft drink's two spots—one featured Tom Colicchio from Top Chef, the other Heidi Klum from Project Runway. But is it me, or did it feel like Bravo benefitted more from that promotion than Diet Coke? Throw in Runway's Tim Gunn serving as a red-carpet host and later appearing in an ad for Tide detergent, and it was an oddly high-profile night for the cable channel. How maddening for ABC: They put all that effort into the show, and then NBC Universal (which owns Bravo) dominates the commercial breaks.

And now to JCPenney, the evening's other major marketing presence. This was a terrific opportunity for the department store to talk up its women's clothing line—during a telecast that's in large part about fashion and at a moment when discount brands are suddenly in vogue. But danged if those outfits weren't shockingly fug! Dueling jungle prints. Superfluous belts. High-waisted jeans with some sort of double-breasted button arrangement. It's like Amy Winehouse got lost and disoriented in Meredith Baxter Birney's closet. Feel free to pick up one of these ensembles for your wife, Troy, but don't count on making it to your next anniversary.

Over to you, Dana. Would you agree that the most effective advertisement of the night was Judd Apatow's infomercial for his DVD back catalog—hosted by Seth Rogen and James Franco? Also: Was this the Amanda Seyfried breakout night America was waiting for? And how did you feel about the fact that Space Chimps received more acknowledgment last night than Synecdoche, New York?

Many thanks to the academy,
Seth

TODAY IN SLATE

Politics

Talking White

Black people’s disdain for “proper English” and academic achievement is a myth.

Hong Kong’s Protesters Are Ridiculously Polite. That’s What Scares Beijing So Much.

The One Fact About Ebola That Should Calm You: It Spreads Slowly

Operation Backbone

How White Boy Rick, a legendary Detroit cocaine dealer, helped the FBI uncover brazen police corruption.

A Jaw-Dropping Political Ad Aimed at Young Women, Apparently

The XX Factor
Oct. 1 2014 4:05 PM Today in GOP Outreach to Women: You Broads Like Wedding Dresses, Right?
Music

How Even an Old Hipster Can Age Gracefully

On their new albums, Leonard Cohen, Robert Plant, and Loudon Wainwright III show three ways.

How Tattoo Parlors Became the Barber Shops of Hipster Neighborhoods

This Gargantuan Wind Farm in Wyoming Would Be the Hoover Dam of the 21st Century

Moneybox
Oct. 1 2014 8:34 AM This Gargantuan Wind Farm in Wyoming Would Be the Hoover Dam of the 21st Century To undertake a massively ambitious energy project, you don’t need the government anymore.
  News & Politics
Politics
Oct. 1 2014 7:26 PM Talking White Black people’s disdain for “proper English” and academic achievement is a myth.
  Business
Buy a Small Business
Oct. 1 2014 11:48 PM Inking the Deal Why tattoo parlors are a great small-business bet.
  Life
Outward
Oct. 1 2014 6:02 PM Facebook Relaxes Its “Real Name” Policy; Drag Queens Celebrate
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 1 2014 5:11 PM Celebrity Feminist Identification Has Reached Peak Meaninglessness
  Slate Plus
Behind the Scenes
Oct. 1 2014 3:24 PM Revelry (and Business) at Mohonk Photos and highlights from Slate’s annual retreat.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Oct. 1 2014 9:39 PM Tom Cruise Dies Over and Over Again in This Edge of Tomorrow Supercut
  Technology
Future Tense
Oct. 1 2014 6:59 PM EU’s Next Digital Commissioner Thinks Keeping Nude Celeb Photos in the Cloud Is “Stupid”
  Health & Science
Science
Oct. 1 2014 4:03 PM Does the Earth Really Have a “Hum”? Yes, but probably not the one you’re thinking.
  Sports
Sports Nut
Oct. 1 2014 5:19 PM Bunt-a-Palooza! How bad was the Kansas City Royals’ bunt-all-the-time strategy in the American League wild-card game?