No 'Lagaan', but Oscar buzz builds for Star Movies

MUMBAI: The biggest event in filmdom, the 75th Oscar Awards, is just ten days away. Despite the war clouds hanging heavy as the US war machine ramps into high gear, this year's event promises to be a mega gala, with even the pre-show activities being massively high profile.

In India however, the hype that was created for last year's show has been dampened by the fact that India is not represented. No Lagaan but the show must go on as they say.

Star Movies has been running an Oscar countdown since 1 March with an award-winning film showcased every day. It has also taken spots on radio FM stations to create more awareness around the upcoming Oscars. And it is not just sister FM station RadioCity that is running the campaign. Even the Mid-Day Group's Go 92.5 is highlighting the campaign.

Still it is in the US of A where the serious action is. According to a Reuters report, the average cost of a 30-second ad spot during the Academy Awards has risen 10 per cent this year to a record of $1.3 million to $1.45 million. ABC, which has the broadcast rights, had sold out its ad inventory by 20 February.

Advertisers for the Academy Awards show in the US include AIG, American Express, Anheuser-Busch, America Online, Charles Schwab, General Motors, JC Penny, Kodak, MasterCard, McDonald's, Procter & Gamble, Pepsi and Washington Mutual.

It is interesting to note the strong ad rates in the US especially considering that advertisers are not guaranteed a minimum number of viewers during telecast and red-carpet review by ABC.

Last year's event had the women glued to their sets with 62 per cent of the 42 million Oscar viewers being female. So smaller companies like financial services broker Washington Mutual have the women in mind in terms of the message they want6 to get out. Washington Mutual is starting its spring ad campaign with four spots on the Oscars.

In India however, as a media planner points out, the live telecast time of 6:30 am makes for a poor media-buying proposition. The ratings are a trivial 0.8 to 0.9 and so it will mainly attract high-end brands targeting a niche audience. These include consumer durables, cosmetics, jewellery and the like. According to a Star spokesperson, the channel has attracted sponsors and advertisers like Pepsi, LG Electronics, Samsung (Corporate), Parle and Pfizer.

Meanwhile, dwelling further on the relevance of the event for the Indian television and media buying industry, the planner sees the event as being more an image builder for Star Movies than a revenue driver. For advertisers, an incentive for their products appearing during the telecast could be that they get bonus spots on high profile blockbusters such as Jurassic Park III, which is to be telecast some time soon after the Oscars. This held true even for last year when Aamir Khan's Lagaan got in.

On a more positive note the media planner did not think that the World Cup would affect viewership for the ceremony as it does not target a mass audience in any case. People interested in seeing whether Chicago will be the first musical in 30 years to take home the golden guy in the Best Picture slot will still want to tune in regardless of the cricket frenzy going on around them.

Queried whether there had been any substantial change in the rates offered for the event this year as opposed to last time round Divya Radhakrishnan, Publicis Zen media director says the card rate last year was the same as this year. Elaborating further, Radhakrishnan says: "The card rate of Star Movies or for that matter any English movie channel has always been high. However, with their RODP (run on day part) or ROS (run on schedule) packages, it makes effective rates look decent applying the qualitative filter also."

"Last year the hype was to do with Lagaan the mother of all movies in India (combination of Bollywood and cricket how much better could it have got !!!!!!!). Hence it got in a lot of viewers who otherwise would have never known the spelling of Oscars or even Star Movies for that matter. However, this year it will be just Oscars in its true form," she concluded.

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