Judging the World’s Biggest Reality TV Show: Oscars 2015

Posted on Feb 22 2015 - 12:45pm by Stacy Slotnick, Esq.

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The fashion. The pre-show media blitz. The post-Oscars interviews. Performances dotted by blundered introductions (ahem, Adele Dazeem). People do not want to sit back and consume television alone on reality TV’s biggest night, which starts at 8:30 p.m. EST on ABC. Digest all the Oscars buzz on your mobile device instead of serving as a seat-filler at the 87th Academy Awards. (Employees of PricewaterhouseCoopers, the accounting firm entrusted with tallying the votes, perform the role of the seat-filler, an unpaid gig.) AATT posters have the best seat in the house!  Let’s spill the tea and judge the First Lady of reality television! 

In 1929 members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences first gathered to fête their own. In the commercial environment that governs our television consumption, the economic reality of reality TV, which includes semi-scripted, semi-improvised awards programming, is too attractive for networks to ignore. Reality award shows make for cheap TV. Also, they provide enough comic relief, spectacle, suspense, and entertainment to keep us engrossed while pushing the envelope of what is socially acceptable.  This year Lady Gaga, Common, John Legend, Rita Ora, Anna Kendrick, Jennifer Hudson, and Tim McGraw are all set to perform.

How do you “brand” the Academy Awards? A-listers, military veterans, and startup companies round out the types of clients I’ve worked with to produce televised events, and the Oscars is a major opportunity companies have to brand themselves. ABC is charging an average rate of $1.95 million for a 30 second commercial, according to Forbes.  (Can the RHOC from Coto De Caza collect enough dough from their Wines By Wives business to attract new customers through an Oscars advertisement tonight?)

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Big brands that do have their names plastered on everything Oscars include McDonalds, American Express, Samsung, and Cadillac, with Netflix advertising during the broadcast for the first time. Advertisers are willing to pay more to reach the reality TV audience of the Oscars than that of the Super Bowl.

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences itself is planning a $5.5 million social media promotion to drum up viewers.  A Dove/Twitter campaign called #SpeakBeautiful will air during the red carpet coverage of Sunday’s Oscars.  The ad is based around one statistic – that women posted more than 5 million negative tweets about beauty and body image (their own or someone else’s) last year.

Beauty politics plays a major role this year at the Oscars. Beware of Representation Project’s #AskHerMore movement, which started in Feb. 2014. It is being waged by women in Hollywood wanting to widen the scope of their pre-telecast conversations beyond fashion.  I admire the subtext of the crusade, but let’s not pretend the red carpet is a place to find out what an Oscar nominee thinks of Turkish soldiers raiding Syria. It is my position that those discussions have a rightful place in the public discourse, which is on news programs where people who are actually working in the field can best help us digest the material and find potentially workable solutions.

“If you are going to the Oscars, you might as well go to the Oscars,” commented actress Sharon Stone, whom I have personally witnessed be extremely generous with her fans. Is it wrong to ask about couture at a red carpet celebrated for its opulence?  Gender equality matters, but none of us are naïve enough to believe the Oscars are the equivalent of a meeting for the 70th Regular Session of the UN General Assembly.

There is nothing wrong with providing style and content on the red carpet, but shaming the industry for questions relating to style is a bit duplicitous. What may be the most artificial aspect about the #AskHerMore campaign is celebrities have contracts with watch companies, beauty lines, and water brands that they have no qualms promoting on the red carpet. I urge you to watch the red carpet interviews today and see what branding and promotions you can spot. Branding promotion is not sexist; it merely makes good business sense. Additionally, let’s be clear that many nominees and hosts are walking the red carpet and providing commentary solely to audition for more work on the silver screen or to snatch a coveted magazine cover.

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Furthermore, nothing prevents a celebrity from massaging their messaging to relay facts about causes they champion.  In fact, brilliant PR people know how to help their clients do this seamlessly during interviews.

Now that the fashion politics is out of the way, let’s talk fun fashion, but not the kind RHONY’s Sonja Morgan debuted at New York Fashion Week. The 51-year-old launched Sonja Morgan New York at Carriage House Center for the Arts during New York Fashion Week, which includes ready-to-wear, sportswear, evening wear, and swimwear.

The Oscar fashion preshows on cable and network television will include the red carpet special that starts at 7 p.m. EST on ABC and E!’s “Countdown To The Red Carpet: The 2015 Academy Awards” (1:30 p.m. EST) and “Live From The Red Carpet: The 2015 Academy Awards” (5:30 p.m. EST).

Will the “mani cam” reveal a botched manicure or new engagement ring?  Can the “clutch cam” catch fascinating items that lurk in an actresses’ demure handbag? Ryan Seacrest is stationed on the red carpet to interview stars, with Giuliana Rancic inside the Roosevelt Hotel whilst Keeping Up with the Kardashians’ Khloe Kardashian shares her style thoughts throughout the night. Please publish and discuss your favorite (and least favorite) looks here!

A fact can be a beautiful thing, and the fact is celebrities borrow gowns, jewels, shoes, bags, etc. for the red carpet. There has been gossip that real housewives, including RHONJ’s Teresa Giudice, appropriates dresses and high-end handbags from designers to wear on the show and during reunion specials, but don’t think nominee Julianne Moore will be freeloading for a frock from a rundown strip mall in southern Jersey or pirating a look from Sheree Whitfield’s She by Sheree clothing line.

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The red carpet has created an extremely advantageous economy for brands and celebrities. Celebrities usually do not pay anything out-of-pocket for their ensemble but the designer gets the better end of the deal for loaning shoes, dresses, and gems because their names and brands are splashed all over the press. For exclusive jewelry, stilettos, and fashion houses, the potential reward in free publicity is huge as style bloggers and the social media stratosphere magnify these partnerships. The Oscars is a major marketing and networking opportunity, and the right piece on the right star is a better investment than placing an ad in The New York Times.

Don’t forget the green room, swag suites, and goodie bags where celebrities get free booty with the expectation that they will pose with sponsor’s products. The result is mass brand exposure for a sponsor while celebrities get to make contacts that can turn into money-spinning endorsement deals. Those of us who are on the front lines creating organic branding opportunities see these nights as pure business profit. 

The 87th Academy Awards is not without its reality TV show controversy. African-American civil rights groups plan to protest outside Sunday’s Oscars show at the Dolby Theatre, where every single one of this year’s 20 acting nominees is white.  Moreover, even fewer thespians of Latin, Asian, Native American, and other non-European backgrounds see sufficient representation in U.S. film today.

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From a branding standpoint, having a scantily represented cross-section of society at the Oscars is bad. From a humanity perspective, it is deplorable.  There is no question a more diverse Oscars-awarding Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, whose current voting members are overwhelmingly white and with an average age in their 60s, will provide better filmmaking and an improved understanding about global issues.

Spill the tea here on everything Oscars, which will be hosted for the first time by Gone Girl’s Neil Patrick Harris, an actor, singer, and dancer whom WWHL host Andy Cohen has dubbed, “NPH.” While the RHOA is on hiatus tonight, watch the Oscars and judge away! Enjoy this interactive viewing party and tell us what you think about….

  • The Fashion
  • The Winners
  • The Speeches
  • The Controversies
  • The Host
  • The Branding

If you do not have early morning meetings to attend on Monday, watch reality show exhibitionism endure on the annual “Jimmy Kimmel Live: After the Oscars,” which airs after the late local news on Sunday. Meanwhile, the “E! After Party” at 11:30 p.m. EST has dispatches from the Vanity Fair party and Governor’s Ball.  Tomorrow at 9 p.m. EST the judging continues when Kathy Griffin, Kelly Osbourne, Giuliana Rancic, and Brad Goreski provide fashion food for thought on E!’s own reality show, “Fashion Police.”

 

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About the Author

Stacy Slotnick, a.k.a. The Foxy Jurist, holds a J.D., cum laude, from Touro Law Center and a B.A., summa cum laude, from the University of Massachusetts Amherst Commonwealth Honors College. Stacy is the recipient of the Honors Deans Award; Simon and Satenig Ermonian Memorial Scholarship; College of Social and Behavioral Sciences Opportunity Scholarship; and College of Humanities and Fine Arts Scholarship. She is also a William F. Field Alumni Scholar, an honor bestowed upon the most academically distinguished students. In law school, Stacy won two CALI Excellence For The Future Awards® and received an Achievement Scholarship. She is a member of the New York Bar. As an entertainment lawyer, Stacy counsels clients on contracts, branding, and public relations strategy. She negotiates with agents, producers, production companies, and lawyers to secure rights to projects on behalf of high-profile clients. Her clever, spirited, no holds barred legal analysis can be found in articles for The Huffington Post. * Facebook   * LinkedIn   * Twitter