With 40 million watching live and 500 reporters on the Red Carpet, the Academy Awards Are High-Stakes Communication
TORONTO, Feb. 27, 2011 – With a global audience in the tens of millions, thousands of journalists hoping for a slip-up, and all the most powerful people in show business, the 83rd Oscar night had all the predictable nervous speeches, boring lists of people unknown to viewers, a small handful of emotionally authentic moments and one enthusiastic F-bomb.
Considering that , as director Frank Capra said at the 1936 Academy Awards, “the Oscar is the most valuable, but least expensive item of world-wide public relations ever invented by any industry, “ audiences hope every year to get more entertaining remarks out of the planet’s most entertaining people. Unfortunately, most of the acceptance speeches broke the cardinal rule of communication: “Don’t be boring.”
Composer Randy Newman summed it up nicely in one of the few strong speeches of the evening, as he accepted the award for best original song. He was gently self-effacing, acknowledging that despite a remarkable 20 Oscar nominations, his winning percentage was weak with only two Oscars. He’s been to the nominees’ lunch so often, he quipped, that they’ve named a chicken dish after him. And then he provided advice that would have been more useful nearly three hours earlier. “It’s not good TV to take a list out of your pocket and thank a lot of people … I want to be good television so badly.”
Ketchum’s communication professionals were looking not just for good television but good communication. We were looking for the: emotionally engaging, believable, non cliché, non boring, non trite, concise, powerful, funny, poignant, or provocative.
There’s an old saying that “dying is easy, comedy is hard.” Perhaps that explains why so few winners tried to be funny.
Colin Firth succeeded, with the right mix of wry British self-effacement, winning for Best Actor. Not so Natalie Portman who picked up Best Actress but delivered a completely unmemorable acceptance.
David Seidler, picking up the Best Original Screenplay for King’s Speech, did what many speakers don’t when he acknowledged “I’m terrified.” That immediately won over the audience, setting us up for: “My father always said I’d be a late bloomer.”
There was much thanking of wives, children, moms and grandmas, most of which was noticeably lacking in emotion. But Best Director winner Tom Hooper, who should know a thing or two about crafting a story, did exactly that, explain how it was his mother who saw a rough, unrehearsed play called The King’s Speech and told him it should be his next film. A story beats a list every time.
Christian Bale, accepting the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor for his role in The Fighter, provided another entertaining speech. “Bloody hell,” said Bale on taking the stage. He introduced the man who he played in the movie. Nice move. Then he promoted the guy’s web site. Maybe a little tacky, but OK.
But sometimes it’s just good old-fashioned shock value that sticks out, especially when the audience is afraid it’s going to be bored to tears. So when Best Supporting Actress winner Melissa Leo rang out with an expletive that we don’t usually hear on TV – the F-word – we all secretly thanked her for instilling a little passion in the event. But then she launched into a crass direction about selling motion pictures. Part of the art of good communication is knowing when to stop.
An innovator in communication since 1923, Ketchum delivers seamless service around the world through its 66 offices in Europe, North America, Asia Pacific and Latin America. Ketchum was chosen as the PRNews “Large Firm of the Year” in 2010. Additional information on Ketchum and its award-winning work can be found at www.ketchum.com.
– 30 –
For more information please contact:
Ketchum Public Relations Canada