TV & Streaming

To win Oscars and Emmys, studios are evolving their FYC campaigns

Custom content, experiential activations, and consumer-focused marketing efforts are designed with the hope of getting through to voters.
article cover

Francis Scialabba

· 6 min read

Last summer’s smash hit and Warner Bros. cash cow Barbie is up for eight awards at this year’s Oscars—not to mention the awards it already picked up earlier this year at the Golden Globes, Critics Choice, and People’s Choice awards.

The film’s feminist commentary and photogenic cast aren’t the only things it will have going for it when the awards are doled out on Sunday. Quite a lot of advertising has gone into trying to secure those gold statuettes for Barbie, including special screenings in Los Angeles and New York, out-of-home advertising, and mailers, along with discussion panels, some featuring director Greta Gerwig and singer Dua Lipa, whose song, “Dance the Night,” was featured in the film.

Barbie isn’t the only production using those kinds of marketing tactics in an effort to encourage awards-show wins. For Your Consideration campaigns, an advertising machine that kicks into action ahead of awards season to encourage awards voters to support certain shows and movies, are nothing new in Hollywood, where a gold trophy can bring with it positive attention, new audiences, and future opportunities. In the last few years, For Your Consideration, or FYC, campaigns have transformed considerably, as audience fragmentation, increasing pressure to win over consumers—along with voters—and the still-lingering effects of last year’s writers’ and actors’ strikes continue to transform the way FYC campaigns are executed.

Cover your bases

There are thousands of voters for both the Oscars and Emmys located all around the world, and FYC campaigns typically involve traditional media channels to reach them, including placing ads in Hollywood trade publications like Deadline and The Hollywood Reporter, as well as utilizing billboard advertising in locations like Los Angeles where a larger concentration of voters may be likely to see them.

But like other consumers, awards voters are becoming more difficult to reach, and marketing tactics have shifted.

“People’s attention is very fractured right now, very fragmented,” Rick Markovitz, president of Weissman/Markovitz Communications, which has worked on Emmy campaigns for shows like American Horror Story and Breaking Bad, said. “You really need to have a 360-degree campaign.”

Those 360-degree campaigns increasingly feature pieces of custom content designed to cut through, according to Louise Brennand, EVP at HBO’s FYC AOR Think Jam. To promote the second season of HBO’s hit show The White Lotus, Think Jam came up with a digital guestbook made up of pages containing the point of view of the actors on their favorite moments filming the show that viewers could flip through.

“You’ve got to think of different ways that aren’t just re-creating the poster to tell a story of why something’s awesome,” Brennand said. (Bonus: the digital guestbook was a relatively quick turnaround, an essential component of some FYC campaigns, she added.)

Some studios are also embracing experiential activations as part of their FYC campaigns, Brennan said. Brennand pointed to Netflix’s FYSEE event, where Netflix originals are brought to life for Television Academy members through immersive experiences—and opportunities to meet talent—in a large venue.

“That’s a brilliant example of awards campaigning turned experiential...and tending to consumer marketing,” she said.

More is more?

Yauny Wheaton, Max’s VP of consumer marketing, said that experiential events, which can be flashy, aren’t always the most economical move in the FYC world.

Get marketing news you'll actually want to read

Marketing Brew informs marketing pros of the latest on brand strategy, social media, and ad tech via our weekday newsletter, virtual events, marketing conferences, and digital guides.

“We just always felt that our dollars were better spent trying to home in on members and make sure that we were really really targeting the members,” Wheaton said. “I think the stuff that Netflix and Amazon and Apple have been doing is amazing. It’s just, sort of, when dollars are tight, it was like, ‘let’s get to the people who are actually pushing the button and voting.’”

In some cases, the cost of FYC campaigning can be better justified if it targets both voters and consumers, Brennan said.

“When you drive down Sunset, it is now much more B2C and consumer-focused,” she said. “Because if you’re going to spend all this money on campaigning, it’s actually got to help the overall objective of show watchers and film watchers.”

That can be easier said than done, in part because consumers may have different programming preferences than those who wield some power over which titles win during awards season. While there has been a recent push to increase diversity among awards-show voters and nominees, “the demographics of these groups, though they’re changing, are still what they are: They’re still older, still predominantly male, still predominantly white,” Howie Kaplan, EVP of strategy at the entertainment marketing agency Legion Creative, said.

In hot water?

Some long-standing FYC campaign strategies faced challenges last year, when the writers’ and actors’ strikes brought many promotional strategies to a screeching halt.

Screenings, which are especially crucial for having talent mingle with potential voters, were often put together last-minute, according to Markovitz, and talent were largely barred from participating in promotional activities during the strikes. (Promotions didn’t dry up entirely, though; some independent productions not belonging to the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers had permission to promote projects from SAG, after agreeing to the guild’s negotiating terms.)

This year, the FYC campaigning strategy of using wins or nominations from other awards shows, like the Writers Guild Awards, to promote titles ahead of flashier awards like the Oscars, was unreliable, he said, because those awards shows—typically held before the Oscars—were shifted back as a result of the strikes, causing FYC campaigns to promote their content without being able to lean on earlier nominations or wins.

Crystal ball

Brennand predicted that with the sheer number of FYC events across a vast slate of content from studios big and small, there could be a move toward consolidating promotional efforts.

“During awards season, there’s so many roundtables and so many screenings and Q&As. As an Academy member, good gosh, they must probably go to like three events a night, so I think there will probably be a trend more toward grouping,” she said.

At the core, though, remains the enduring challenge of deciding which titles get the attention of FYC campaigns, and which projects don’t get as much spotlight.

“Everyone thinks that they deserve No. 1 attention, and I think that’s something that is a very fine line to walk, to balance company priorities [and] talent priorities,” Brennand said. “You want talent to come back to your network. You want talent to come back year over year. But you also have to be realistic about what’s going to win.”

Get marketing news you'll actually want to read

Marketing Brew informs marketing pros of the latest on brand strategy, social media, and ad tech via our weekday newsletter, virtual events, marketing conferences, and digital guides.