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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Tuesday, July 29, 2014

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In Movies & TV Commentary

Huge marketing efforts were behind the films getting nominated for Oscars this week. (PHOTO: shutterstock.com )

Marketing plays key role in award nominations


Maybe in your group of friends there is a person who likes to try new things out, so that they can be considered "the finder" when they introduce it to you. Or, it is often the case that your friends and family members make their entertainment spending solutions based on something you've told them?

It always comes down to someone hearing something and spreading the word. There's little doubt there. But this word-of-mouth principal is so key to box office outcomes on the big screen and TV success for ratings and fan followings, it has a major role in the awards season.

In the wake of the latest Oscar nominations, I always find it fun to see who is talking about which film was snubbed or the actors that were left out of contention. What the average person doesn't realize, is that marketing is just as crucial as promotion and timing.

And in the run-up to the nominations, there are millions of dollars spent on marketing. Mailings, advertisements and other tactics are used to keep a film, actor, actress or production at the top-of-mind.

Some people believe marketing and promotion are the same things. Truth is, they are not.

Promotion is talking about something in a group of people in hopes they would "promote" it within others inside, or a little outside of the intended group. Marketing is presenting information about a delivery on a promise – a brand – and talking to people who would like to be associated within a certain lifestyle. They are the ones that then promote it to others.

With me? I like to think promoters can help raise awareness, but marketing creates brand loyalists, who become promoters themselves.

Specific to entertainment media, production and marketing are both needed to get awareness out about a project that it picks up enough steam to be talked about within the circles of an award nomination.

Case-in-point, Robert Redford in "All is Lost."

Redford is known among the elite of the film industry, someone who has been successfully promoted as an actor, writer and producer who has delivered Oscar-worthy performances in the past.

I didn't see "All is Lost," so I have no idea if his latest performance is worthy of an Oscar nomination or not. The problem is, not enough of the right academy voters were marketed at either, to let them even consider Redford's work.

"Let me speak frankly about how I feel about it," Redford said Friday at a Sundance press conference. "I don't want that to get in the way of why we're here."

Redford does a lot of work, so he knows, address this now and move on.

"There's a lot of campaigning going on and it can be very political," Redford said about the Oscars. "In our case, we suffered from little to no distribution. I don't know what they were afraid of. They didn't want to spend money or they were incapable."

Redford is probably talking on two fronts. In the initial release of "All is Lost," distributed by Roadside Attractions, grossed the film $6.1 million at the box office.

Beyond that, there was no spending to market the limited-released film to the voting members of the academy.

"We had no campaign to cross over into the mainstream," Redford said.

"Would it have been wonderful to be nominated? Of course. I'm not disturbed by it or upset by it."

In his case, there was promotion of the film and his work to get people to the theater, but there wasn't enough marketing to get "All is Lost" to be found in time to make it count.

I've heard it said that Forest Whitaker and his film, "The Butler" were also snubbed in the nominations. That could be true, however, the fact that the film has come in and out of the box office so long ago has to be a factor. The film's producers have to take a proactive role to market the project and actor's work to keep it top of mind to make the nominations.

In my mind, some of the best efforts of the year get overlooked because of a lack of good marketing.

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