Film ads try to sway voters in 'wide open' Oscar race

Three words are plastered on giant billboards in Hollywood and on many newspaper and magazine ads for some of this year's most popular films: "For your consideration."

A fierce race for major categories has led to an increase in 'For your consideration' ads

'For your consideration' ads are rampant in Hollywood as studios and distributors try to get their films an Oscar nomination from Academy voters (Zulekha Nathoo/CBC)

Three words are plastered on giant billboards in Hollywood and on many newspaper and magazine ads for some of this year's most popular films: "For your consideration."

"For your consideration" ads aren't trying to coax you and me to see the film that's being advertised — in many cases, the movies aren't even playing in regular theatres anymore. The ads are geared toward the more than 6,000 members of the Academy, who are currently in the process of voting for which films should get a nomination at this year's Oscars.

"It's a very expensive, very aggressive effort to shape the vote in the same way political campaigns take out television ads," Scott Feinberg, an awards columnist for The Hollywood Reporter, told me.

No clear frontrunner

He said this year has been even more rampant than in years past.
Scott Feinberg, awards columnist for The Hollywood Reporter, says advertising is particularly widespread this year because there's no clear front-runner in the 2016 Oscar race. (Zulekha Nathoo/CBC)

"This year is very competitive very late in the season because there's no clear front-runner," Feinberg, who is also working on a book about the evolution of Oscar campaigning, said.

"Usually by this point, it's down to one or two contenders in most of the main categories. This year, most of the big ones [categories] are quite wide open at this point and so many people still feel they have a shot, that they're within striking distance and they don't want to leave anything on the table."

Critically acclaimed films such as The Martian, Trumbo, Beasts of No Nation and The Danish Girl are just a few incorporating this tactic into their larger marketing schemes. Often, they're used as a reminder to voters, especially if the movie was released earlier in 2015 or didn't spend a lot of time in theatres.

Expensive, aggressive campaign

The expense of that extra promotion might be miniscule for major companies, but it can be significant for smaller operations.

Beata Harju, a screenwriter for the animated feature Moomins on the Riviera, says the monumental task of getting people to see the Finnish-French production struck her the moment it made the 2016 Oscar short list.
Screenwriter Beata Harju says her small team is hustling with more screenings, advertising and promotion to try to get their Oscar-shortlisted animated feature Moomins on the Riviera a nomination. (Zulekha Nathoo/CBC)

"It was funny, I was sitting in a car the day we found out and then I saw a hot-air balloon going with one of the other shortlisted films," said Harju, describing how competitive marketing has become this awards season. "I was like, OK, I think the only way to get people to see it is to promote it."

She said when it comes to smaller categories, "For your consideration" ads can help if voters haven't necessarily seen the films and might be going solely on a name they recognize or remember seeing.

"It's awareness. People often pick a brand that they've heard about. They don't necessarily know anything about it."

Despite the cost, no one can say for sure if this form of advertising has a hand in clinching the vote for an eventual nominee.

"Whether or not it makes a difference in the end, we'll never know, but it's something everybody feels is within reach so they're going to go harder for it this year," Feinberg said. "As long as some people are doing it, everyone better do it because you don't want that to be the reason you miss out."


Zulekha Nathoo

Digital/Broadcast reporter, L.A.

Zulekha Nathoo is a breaking news and entertainment reporter based in Los Angeles. From the Oscars to the Grammys, she's interviewed some of the biggest names in showbiz including Celine Dion and Denzel Washington. She also works on-air covering news events and spent more than a decade at CBC stations across Canada, including Toronto and Calgary. Follow her on Twitter/Instagram: @zulekhanathoo.