John Tantillo’s Winner and Loser of The Week: Scott Walker and The Oscars

John Tantillo’s Winner and Loser of The Week

Brand Winner… And Loser…


Winner:  Scott Walker, Governor of Wisconsin

Loser:  The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences      


Scott Walker, the governor of Wisconsin embroiled in a dramatic state house showdown with unions, is our winner of the week.

Those who criticize the intrepid governor might have valid objections to his methods, but no one can say he isn’t being true to his brand. 

This fidelity will translate into gaining powerful support from his Target Market who, after all, are the people who agree that government spending must be reined in and know that to do so will inevitably be painful.

Folks, this is an example of a brand whose time has come.  Walker was elected because he said taking on this kind of spending and the unions was what he was going to do – now he’s doing it.

It was clear to many voters that state and local spending on salaries and benefits has become excessive.  Even some unions have accepted that cuts must be made.  

But now that the game is on, it is Walker who looks resolute and consistent and the unions don’t.  In fact, the unions seem as if they don’t really understand how their salaries and benefits are paid –not out of some endless cash machine but out of a teetering tax system hit hard by our current economic slump.

This kind of conflict is always going to underscore the strength of one brand over another and unless Walker backs down or otherwise dilutes his message, he will only grow stronger here and appear increasingly courageous as the unions’ fury grows.

For their part, unions need to flip their strategy around from speaking about their wants to emphasizing the benefits their service brings to the community.  They also have to show that they really understand how they are paid (i.e., out of taxpayers’ pockets) and don’t need a lesson from their parents about money not growing trees. 

This is the only way for them to take the high road and regain public approval.  Otherwise, they simply look like a fringe group hanging onto benefits that they do not truly deserve.

So, hats off to this week’s successful political brand.


Why is the Academy wasting Oscar on the young?

This year’s decision to run with James Franco and Anne Hathaway as hosts is awful.  Nothing wrong with changing hosts, but thinking that this kind of change coupled with a few promotional ads is a good idea shows that the Academy is in real trouble. 

The Academy is sitting on a great marketing legacy and product in the Oscars, but they simply don’t seem to recognize this fact. 

Instead, they are succumbing to the promise of a marketing quick fix. 

Making a one-time grab for a younger viewing demographic might not be a brand killer, but a brand that doesn’t know itself, forgets its mission or its Target Market is vulnerable to making more bad decisions.  Cumulatively these bad small decisions can add up to something terminal.

This year’s Oscar move is a huge failure of the Academy’s marketing imagination.

The Oscars is essentially a big corporate video intended to give major industry players a regular pat on the back, promote individual movie brands (i.e., titles), and continue to re-enforce through what I call “Authority Marketing” the importance of Hollywood for our culture – and it does all this while making money from the television advertising dollars the spectacle rakes in.

Bottom line, even in the bad Oscar audience years, the show still attracts a viewership of 35 million plus.  This is not something to worry about.

Fact is, it’s the movies not the event that matter.  The years when big movies like Titanic or Avatar were in contention for the top prize correlated with the largest viewerships.  Small, dark, Indie movies correlated with the smallest viewerships.

Can the Oscars be improved as a show?  Probably.  Do you really have to hear the winner for best left-handed audio dubbing in a two-and-a-half minute short?  But, if they do cut an hour off the show, will it make sense in terms of lost ad revenue?  

The better question is, do the Oscars need to be improved as a show?  The answer: probably not.

So why change hosts like this and target the young?

This is sad to behold, because the Academy and the industry it represents must be one of the foremost marketing forces in the world.  Just think about the origin of The Academy and its flagship awards show. 

First, the full brand name of the organization.  The Academy of Motion Pictures and Sciences.  This mouthful came to define the seriousness of an industry that started at the nickelodeons where light film entertainment could be bought for a nickel a pop. 

This name and the Academy’s “mission” was marketing genius.  Brand re-positioning extraordinaire.  It led to the world making what was formerly a cultural diversion into a cultural centerpiece.  Today, movies are not only serious business; they are a serious part of our culture even when they are diverting and fun.

In fact, if the Academy is going to worry about changing for any audience, it should be for the global market, all those viewers outside the United States who contribute the most to the box office numbers.  Today, even if a movie flops in the U.S., it can make a killing around the world. 

Mainstream Hollywood movies are getting broader to accommodate tastes from Moscow to Seoul –so if the Academy regains its marketing mojo, expect Oscar to follow.

But chasing the young with two new hosts and a few ads?  Fuggedaboutit.

And, remember, it’s always easier when you keep marketing and branding in mind.

Even Great Brands can be destroyed by a series of bad decisions.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *