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And the Oscar goes to…

How Hollywood use social media
Summary: How Hollywood uses Social Media marketing especially around the Oscars. From drip marketing to use of earned media to thematic contents here are few ideas to inspire film marketers.

Disclaimer: This is a dated article originally published in Manipal Prolearn blog in 2017(1st March). Dated as it refers to the famous goof up of the Oscars in 2017. Why I am updating it now? 2022 Oscars is fresh in the mind…and the examples are still valid. But it still needs some postscripts. 

And the Oscar goes to…

La La Land.

Oops …hold on.

Oops …hold on.

Pic credit: Bollywoodlife

It’s Moonlight.

Poor Warren Beatty. He looked embarrassed. Jimmy Kimmel, the host acted like being embarrassed. (I think he did a great job otherwise and reminded me of Billy Crystal – my favourite host). PWC bearers backstage must have been thinking about pink slips.

Or it may be staged in line with promoting diversity and inclusion, the theme of the awards night. (An article written an year back has a hint of this) A typical Hollywood style theatrical end. We are still not sure whether it was staged or was a blooper. But it was worth the 5 hours of my time on a Monday morning, waking up early to watch from the Red Carpet to the actual ceremony. (A kind of a ritual for me for the last 2 decades)

So what has this to do with digital marketing? Quite a lot if you ask me.

We see many movies using social media effectively to promote their films. Some of them may not have made it (or made it in a small way) in the Oscars 2017. They are ‘The Others’.

The most notable amongst ‘the others’ were Dead Pool and Jungle Book.

The video of Dead Pool celebrating Halloween with kids in real world went viral. And there were other such campaigns (to promote this movie) which made it possible for an R rated movie to gross around 800 million dollars.

Image credit: Little White Lies

In the case of Jungle Book they had to satisfy the die-hard fans (the original was done in the 70s) that it is not just a reboot. The movie expanded its audience in the modern age. They did it pretty well through social media and other promotional channels.

Image credit : Indian Express

Let’s come back to the Oscar 2017 highlights.

In the main ceremony they covered a good deal on social media. Right from taking on Trump’s Twitter to the trolls on celebrities’ Twitter accounts. On trolls, how I wish most of us can show maturity in responding to them as shown by few of the stars (in case you are interested to know about dealing with trolls , here is my take on this subject )

Now let’s look at La La Land, the most talked about film of that year. They had created a good social connect around a classic theme and that too a musical.

Here are a few things they did well using the new age media.

Image Credit : IMDB

1. Drip marketing : (borrowing from email marketing terminology). They had a definite plan when they released the teasers, the 1st one just hinting it being a musical and revealing as little as possible. And then the second trailer with one of the protagonists singing about ‘the mess’ they have made (in the movie). And finally the “official trailer” starting with the failed audition of a struggling actor. As we say, that’s how you create a hook and connect with your audience in digital media.

2. Use of earned media: And then you have some interesting piece of ‘earned media’ like where Damien Chazelle , the youngest director to win an Oscar at that time (without any goof up, thankfully) justifies the need of a musical in this era . In his own words “No one breaks into song unless it’s emotionally justified in some way. But once you allow yourself that possibility, then you have a responsibility to go all the way.”

|| Postscript 2022: If you have already seen this year’s nomination – West Side Story (Spielberg’s remake) you will see it echoes the same ||

3. Thematic contents: And they tapped into nostalgia. And that is connected with modernism. As one of the critics said that it is not a classic film shot in modern times. But a modern film shot in a classic theme. (Or something like that). Look at how they used Facebook and other social media to promote the yesteryear memorabilia like vinyl records, autographed by Justin Hurwitz (the composer).

4. Creating Social buzz : La La Land won this hands down. Way ahead of Fences and Lion. All the above efforts and more of such social promotion strategies were instrumental to the conversation it generated in social media. As per it created the highest social buzz leading to the Oscars

Pic Credit : The Drums

There is also a lot to learn from their campaigns which largely got amplified in social media where a lot of people “recommended” the movie , not just “liked”.

And there are many such examples.

That’s social media and Hollywood for you. You will see many more such interesting movie promotions in social media in the coming year. And from Bollywood and other Indian regions as well.

|| Postscript 2022 (and some more reflections) ||

This time (2022) the Academy is also using fan votes amplified through Twitter through this site – (warning: it may not open in your region). Another instance of social buzz. Or as BBC says the Oscars is trying to stay relevant. 

In 2020 we had seen ‘Jojo Rabbit ‘ anticipating hate trolls from fictionalising (and satirising) Hitler getting helped by Academy Award nominee Ava Duvernay (director of Selma). She urged her 2.5 million followers in Twitter to watch the movie and “don’t be a Nazi”. This might be an inspiration to pre-empt trolls and pro-actively work on responses.  

However this year (2022) Academy’s decision to have some awards offline before live telecast is already getting some backlash. I wish they had prepared for the same. 

If you know what ‘trendjacking’ is you can use the trends to amplify your movie. But use it carefully; it may have a backlash as well. 

Well, Lego did it well in 2015 🙂


Have you followed any film promotion in social media? Would like to know your views. Just write in.



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