How Social Media Affected the 2020 Oscar Nominations

Kelsey Formost

14 Jan 2020 · 2 min read


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In the rest of the world, it’s “January”. But here in Hollywood, it’s “Awards Season”.

In the old days (meaning, just a few years ago) Oscars, SAG Awards, and Golden Globes were campaigned for by taking out “For Your Consideration” ads in Variety and The Hollywood Reporter. The movers and shakers would schmooze at all the right parties, with major studios being the only ones who could afford to foot the marketing bill.

But now, with the power of social media, all that has changed.

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Social media and influencer marketing now have a huge effect on what gets attention come awards season. Films that would have previously gone unnoticed are generating dedicated followings online. Movies that get “snubbed” in earlier awards get a public outcry (see, “Little Women”) and lo and behold they’re nominated in multiple Oscar categories. A lack of diversity in the nominations generates a viral hashtag #OscarsSoWhite and filmmakers listen.

Part of this is due to the way we watch, comment on, and share our entertainment. In this age of expensive movie tickets, unplugging the cable and streaming our content, most viewers are consuming films and TV in their homes, or yes, even on their phones via streaming services. And streaming platforms are having a bigger impact on awards season than ever before. This year, Netflix earned 24 Academy Award nominations, more than any other media company this year.

But beyond the big streaming services that re-target us all the time via our devices (aka digital marketing 101), social media campaigns can give lesser-known films that don’t have a big media budget a huge boost. This becomes especially true if the film contains tricky subject matter that might not do well via traditional marketing tactics.

For example, one of this year’s contenders for Best Picture is Jojo Rabbit, a film that fictionalizes and satirizes Hitler and was very much expected to get some hate backlash on social media. But Ava Duvernay, director of Oscar-nominated Selma and this year’s When They See Us, took to Twitter after seeing Jojo Rabbit and encouraged viewers to watch it, saying, “don’t be a Nazi”, and effectively paved the way for her nearly 2.5 million followers to see and share the film.

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Take also the Korean foreign language film Parasite. The makers and stars of that movie aren’t able to put A-list celebs on the late-night couches, but they’re able to use social media and public opinion to generate a ton of online buzz (and ticket sales).

There’s no doubt in the industry that Social Media campaigns are now crucial to success come awards season. Back in fall 2019, Fortune quoted Erik Anderson, founder of Awardswatch, a website devoted to entertainment awards predictions as saying, "There are so many more focused and targeted ads on Instagram and Facebook than ever before, way more than last year and we're only in October."

Add to our changing habits that the Academy just invited some 840+ new members who are younger, more diverse, and more active online than any other group of voters in history. It will be interesting to see what happens now that the nominations are out and voting has begun and to watch how much public opinion sways Academy voters.

One thing’s for sure: brands can learn lots from the films that are able to generate effective social media and influencer campaigns. Namely, that public attention, not necessarily press, is the most valuable commodity of all.

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