B2B Marketers Advertise on Oscars Telecast

February 29, 2016

Just like the Super Bowl, the Academy Awards telecast is a prime venue for consumer marketers. On last night’s Oscar telecast, B2C marketers such as Cadillac, Kohl’s, Samsung, Coca-Cola, and a host of others ran ads.

Also just like the Super Bowl, the Academy Awards broadcast has become a popular medium for B2B advertisers to spread their messages. On last night’s telecast, General Electric, IBM, SquareSpace, and LinkedIn all ran ads aimed at professionals. For each of these B2B marketers, their TV ads were just the tip of the iceberg -- the most broadly visible elements in integrated campaigns that use digital, social, and mobile to reach a target market.


LinkedIn ran its first ever TV commercial during the Oscars (right after the Best Director award and right before the Best Actress award). LinkedIn’s ad shows an astronaut working in outer space as superimposed copy appears on the screen: “NASA is looking for an astronaut. 3 million LinkedIn members qualify.” As Wilco and Billy Bragg’s “California Stars” plays in the background, the visual images are coupled with a voiceover from LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner: “When I was a kid, every night before I went to bed, my Dad told me I could do anything I set my mind to. Believing it changed everything. You’re closer than you think.”

In a blog post, Nick Bartle, LinkedIn’s Vice President of Member Marketing & Communications, summarized the spot’s message of inspiration and aspiration: “We may not all want to be astronauts. But inside each of us is a moonshot, an undertaking that stirs our souls, that fills us with a desire to change the world, in whatever large or small way possible.”

The ad kicks off an integrated campaign for LinkedIn. Publications ranging from The Wall Street Journal to Advertising Age to TechCrunch covered the ad prior to its debut. The TV spot, which is viewable on LinkedIn SlideShare, is supported with a “You’re Closer Than You Think” website, social advertising, social sharing, and other digital efforts.

General Electric

During the Oscar telecast General Electric ran three ads that continued its “What’s the Matter with Owen?” spots, which portray a Owen, a coder who went to work for GE rather than in Silicon Valley. The commercials describe GE with the tagline, “The digital company. That’s also an industrial company.”

As GE CMO Linda Boff explained in a recent Advertising Age column, the company has embraced a strategy of advertising on live TV, such as sports and the Academy Awards, due to changes in media consumption habits driven by technology such as DVRs. “For marketers, those changes have made live media events such as the Super Bowl and Oscars nearly unrivaled opportunities to strike advertising gold,” Boff wrote. She added: “We now invest about 92% of our TV ad budget on live programming -- approximately 36% more than the average advertiser.”


SquareSpace, which provides software that helps businesses build websites, has advertised this year on American TV’s two biggest events: the Super Bowl and the Oscars.

For the Super Bowl, SquareSpace went the comic route, using comedians Key & Peele to promote its business. For the Oscars, SquareSpace took a more serious tone. The ad features David Guttenfelder, an award-winning photojournalist and points viewers to a website that showcases his photographs – and SquareSpace’s capabilities to help companies create compelling websites.


IBM ran two spots for its Watson cognitive system during the Oscars. One ad features actress Carrie Fisher running a support group for evil robots who find that Watson, by working with humans, has ruined their plans for world domination. “I don’t want to work with humans,” says one robot. Says another, “That’s not what I’m passionate about.”

In the second spot, “The Martian” director Ridley Scott has a chat with Watson, who explains that it is analyzing images for factory managers, salespeople and healthcare professionals. “That’s good, Watson, but not exactly movie material,” Scott observes. Watson counters, “Perhaps the healthcare professional could be played by Matt Damon.” An amused Scott replies, “You’re learning, kid.”

The ads direct viewers to a website. IBM also promoted the ads on social in its @IBMWatson Twitter feed and on its LinkedIn Company Page. 

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