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Oscars Advertisers Aim to Build Buzz on Twitter, Facebook

The Oscar for the best place to chat about the Academy Awards goes to: social media.

For the first time, social media are being embraced both by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and Oscar show sponsors and others looking for a way to cash in on Oscar buzz.

Several of Sunday night's Oscars advertisers have added strong social-media components to their efforts. A $1.5 million TV ad, ABC's going rate this year, is just a start. The Oscar buy is also about leveraging the investment on Facebook and Twitter.

"It's no longer smart just to buy on the Academy Awards," says consultant Charlene Li. "You have to tie into social media so that people talk about you."

But the trick to making the package work, warns Debbie Weil, author of The Corporate Blogging Book, is to focus social-media efforts on the Oscars - not on your brand. "Don't make it about your company. Folks only care about who will win best actor or best actress."

Among this year's Oscar social-media tricks:

Be app-y. The Oscars event is getting its own iPhone app. Users can access a nominees list in all 24 categories and trailers for the 10 best picture nominees. They can make predictions to share via Facebook and Twitter. "We want to connect with movie lovers wherever they are," says Janet Weiss, the academy's director of marketing.

Leak ads. J.C. Penney will "leak" all seven of its Oscar ads via its Facebook page before the ads air during the show, says Nick Bomersbach, vice president of digital marketing. "The commercials are fan-based, and people like to comment on them."

Dish the dresses. Samsung is sponsoring ABC.com's Oscar "red carpet," which will have live steaming of celebs arriving. A Facebook chat function will act as "a virtual online water cooler," says Peggy Ang, vice president of marketing.

Hype news. Because of Academy Awards rules, sponsor Hyundai could not have its regular ad voice, best actor nominee Jeff Bridges, in its Oscar ads. So Hyundai is explaining on Facebook it rejiggered all seven ads with famous substitutes, says marketing chief Joel Ewanick.

Go goofy. Advertiser Cottonelle toilet paper is nudging Oscar watchers to vote and chat online about whether they install their rolls "under or over," says John Stanwood, senior brand manager.

Act snarky. Oscar advertisers might learn something from the bar at hotel Casa del Mar in Santa Monica, Calif. It will have several side-by-side flat screens - one with the Oscar show, the companion with a live Twitter feed inviting guests to tweet comments. Guests who make the funniest or most biting tweets will get free drinks.

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