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The Biggest Winner in the Academy Awards: Brands!

The year 2009 was monumental for the Academy Awards, with the first addition of a new category for the Oscars since Best Animated Feature was added in 2001. This new category of “Best Brand” adds to the Oscars recognition of the consumer brand that has most effectively spread itself (some might say like a bad flu) through leading films. Now, in an unprecedented move, for the second year in a row another category has been created: “Most Branded Picture.” Shall we see who won these two awards?

Last year, it was no surprise that Apple took the Academy Award for Best Brand, having starred in 18 films, and it shouldn’t be a surprise that the brand is in this year’s list of nominees, having once again paid untold amounts of money for the opportunity to be part of 10 movies. But this year, Apple has many close competitors: Ford, Chevrolet and Nike all starred in 8 films, Sony in 7, even Glock (the gun) starred in 6 films. The judges definitely struggled with their decision. But in the end, they chose Glock!

It’s not every day that a company can generate such lucrative product placements in both the fictional world and the real world. After all, while Glock certainly didn’t seek out the kind of publicity it received from the recent Arizona shootings, it still benefited from skyrocketing sales in the aftermath of the shooting. And while it’s unclear how much sales increased from the celebrity Leonardo DiCaprio and his crew in Inception using Glocks, as with all product placements (and marketing in general), the goal is to make the brand so ubiquitous that the marketed brand is the one a consumer seeks out when they’re in need of a computer, a sneaker, a car, a lighter, or yes, even a gun. This is the reason why companies spend more than $3.5 billion annually on product placements. So Congratulations Glock, we hope you can keep that energy firing in both Hollywood and across America in 2011!

As for our second award, “Most Branded Picture,” the nominees are Iron Man 2, playing host to 66 brands, The Other Guys, having been infected with 55 brands, and The Social Network being colonized by 52 brands. And the winner… wow! It’s an upset! It’s The Social Network!

The judges were truly impressed with how completely Iron Man 2 sold out, however, they were astounded by the fact that not only did The Social Network provide a marketing vehicle for 52 brands, the entire movie was a subtle (even if unintentional) commercial for Facebook. According to the judges, “This ironic branding beauty more than made up for the missing 14 brands.”

So congratulations to the two winners! And to all you aspiring brand managers who didn’t win this year, better luck next year! And finally, to all you movie goers out there, remember to choose your movies carefully or risk being bombarded with massive amounts of marketing—and not just in the 20 minutes of commercials that now come before the movie starts at the theater!

This blog entry was co-produced for the Center for a New American Dream and the Worldwatch Institute's Transforming Cultures Project.

Tags: Advertising, Celebrities, Culture, Film

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