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The history of Oscar campaigning is almost akin to man's evolution from the apes. What primarily started out as For Your Consideration ads in the local trades (Variety, The Hollywood Reporter) morphed into local cable TV buys (usually talent spouting off talking points about their movie) to traditional outdoor (primarily strategically placed billboards and bus shelter ads) to print ads in the newspaper keeping the LA Times afloat (Academy members are old and read the paper, duh) to the current wash of online advertising and, hilariously, online websites -- that will go unnamed -- publishing Academy specific print "magazines" (don't get me started on that one). Practically, the online ads have been the biggest game changer by significantly cutting into trades sales revenues, but the past few years have seen a new tool used to reach both Oscar and Emmy voters: the electronic billboard.
If you live in the greater Los Angeles area it's been hard to miss the rotating billboards pushing Academy contenders over the past few months. They are conveniently located on streets and locations that are very industry heavy. Whether it's on the edge of the Valley and Hollywood (i.e., Burbank) on the Melrose Ave. path between Paramount Pictures' lot and Beverly Hills or major intersections near the Beverly Center, The Grove and the Arclight area of Hollywood, for your consideration is now part of the morning and evening commute.
Electronic billboards have become a major part of most general marketing campaigns because 1, you can update the art relatively quickly as opposed to printing a billboard and replacing it (expensive) and 2, they are just so eye-catching at night. Of course, this isn't something that just popped on the scene this year. The rotating billboards became a regular part of studios' Academy Awards campaigns during the second half of last year's race, but this season it's been a mainstay. From Warner Bros.' early push for "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Pt. 2" recognition in November to reminders about "Moneyball" and "The Help" (which arguably contributed to their nomination successes) the digital displays have kept most of LA's population up to speed on the Oscar race even if they aren't part of the game. So, it's no surprise that all the major players are back into it during the final stretch of this year's race.
"The Descendants," "Hugo," "Moneyball," "The Help" and, yes, "The Artist" can all be found back on the electronic battlefield touting their multiple nominations and looking for attention. And for films such as "Descendants," "Hugo" and "The Artist" that are still in theaters, it also works as a general reminder to everyone else to check the movie out. For "Moneyball" and "The Help," both Sony Pictures and DreamWorks are hoping it adds to increased Blu-ray and DVD sales (one reason "Moneyball" is running TV spots still when its chances at winning best picture are longer than the Athletics making the playoffs this year).
Reviewing some of these billboards tells you where each studio is putting their marketing message.
For "The Artist," look at those big 10 nominations and Jean Dujardin is facing the audience with a huge smile signaling to voters not to forget his incredibly charismatic performance in the best actor race.
For "The Help" (which is running three rotating pieces of creative), it's about pushing the emotional connection to the film (and don't forget how Viola ties into that feeling).
For "Moneyball" (which also has three rotating pieces of creative), this art is about pushing the six nods reminding users this movie is much more than Brad Pitt's fine performance.
For "Hugo," Paramount has updated the key art from the now familiar image of Asa Butterfield hanging from the clock to a more touching shot of Butterfield and Chloe Moretz looking out at a beautiful Paris from inside the clock. The ad also smartly reminds you this is the contender with the "most" nominations this year, 11.
If you're in Los Angeles, catch them while you can. As soon as Oscar ballots are due on Tues., Feb. 21 they'll be gone.
For year round entertainment commentary and awards season news follow @HitFixGregory on Twitter.