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Ad sales make ABC an Academy Award winner

The network has sold out its advertising spots for the Oscar telecast, the fastest pace in more than a decade. It also got a price bump over last year's rates.

February 06, 2013|By Meg James, Los Angeles Times
  • Advertisers gravitate to the Academy Awards because its audience has a high concentration of well-educated and affluent viewers with plenty of disposable income. Above, actress Sandra Bullock is backstage during last year's event.
Advertisers gravitate to the Academy Awards because its audience has a… (Al Seib, Los Angeles Times )

Oscar has become golden for advertisers.

In years past, advertising sales for the annual Academy Awards show would stretch into February with last-minute spots selling during Oscar weekend. But this season, Walt Disney Co.-owned ABC had sold most of the show's commercial time before Christmas. The telecast is sold out, Disney Chief Financial Officer Jay Rasulo said this week during a conference call with Wall Street analysts.

It was the fastest pace for Oscar ad sales in more than a decade.

ABC also secured a bump in pricing over last year's ad rates. The network negotiated rates of $1.7 million to $1.85 million per 30-second spot for the 85th Annual Academy Awards show Feb. 24, according to executives familiar with the sales.

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Advertisers gravitate to the event because the Oscar audience has a high concentration of well-educated and affluent viewers with plenty of disposable income. The show also attracts "influencers," people who are determined to be part of pop culture and use social media to give their opinions.

"We love the Oscars," Steve Shannon, vice president of marketing for Hyundai Motor America, based in Costa Mesa, said in an interview Wednesday. "The Oscars, at the end of the day, are about style and sophistication, and we have made great progress with our luxury lines and so we use this event to show that side of our company."

This year marks the fourth consecutive year that Hyundai has been the exclusive auto advertiser in the Academy Awards. The South Korean car company jumped at the chance to dominate the event when the previous auto advertiser — General Motors — surrendered its leading role in 2009 because of financial troubles. Unlike last week's Super Bowl, which was crammed with ads for various car brands, Hyundai will be the only car company featured in the national broadcast.

Hyundai plans seven 30-second spots in the Academy Awards, with voice-overs provided by Jeff Bridges, an Academy Award winner, to provide a little Hollywood flourish.

"We've written new scripts for about half of our ads to give a nod to being in the awards," Shannon said. "The Academy Awards give us a one-two punch coming just a few weeks after the Super Bowl."

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The telecast has long been labeled the "Super Bowl for women," because the television audience skews female. Shannon added that his company this week has been tallying results from its Super Bowl advertising and were thrilled with how those ads drove traffic to the company's digital marketing platforms. Social media mentions, he said, exploded.

Social media is expected to similarly provide a boost to interest in the Academy Awards. Last year, more than 39 million viewers watched the broadcast — an uptick in ratings after several years of viewership declines. ABC and marketers credited social media for creating more buzz around the event.

Advertisers have high hopes that this year's telecast will also deliver.

"The Oscars will be a social media extravaganza," Shannon predicted.

Seth MacFarlane will host the telecast, which will be produced by Craig Zadan and Neil Meron. Performers scheduled to appear this year include singers Barbra Streisand, Adele and Norah Jones. The show will also do a tribute to the James Bond movie franchise.

meg.james@latimes.com

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