The Academy Awards is an epic exercise in marathon television. Four hours of live broadcasting, featuring people, performers, technology, and more that give it an unbelievable number of moving parts. But as viewers, we don't really care about that. We want to be entertained, not only in the monologue and acceptance speeches, but also during the commercial breaks.
The Oscars have become one of the few cultural occasions for brands to dance in front of a live, mostly attentive audience, so many try to make the most of it. IBM enlisted Carrie Fisher and robots, Airbnb curated its listings for film buffs, and Chris Rock's favorite actor Paul Giamatti signed on to his first brand spokesperson work. Kohl's, meanwhile, decided to make its marketing message a distraction from everyone else's by hosting a livestreaming Oscar party on Periscope during every commercial break.
The brand enlisted comedian and actor Vanessa Bayer (SNL, Trainwreck) to host what looked like a more casual infomercial situation that aimed to tap into second-screen viewers by using a live broadcast to interact with its audience in real time. Kohl's executive vice president of marketing Will Setliff says the idea was to use the theme of gratitude as a link between the stars on the Oscar stage and all of us at home.
"Here you have people who show up with thousands and millions of dollars worth of cars and clothes, are then weeping and thanking their family, friends, and everyone else in their life. That's when these larger than life stars become incredibly human," says Setliff. "That's what we think is a natural point of interaction between Kohl's and our customers."
Setliff says that as the brand began to think about how it might engage people in that notion of gratitude, one thing they realized is that Kohl's as a brand has a very unique opportunity to engage more emotionally with its customers in the social space. "We found the sentiment scores for Kohl's social conversations, compared to our competitors, tends to be much more positive. But how do you make gratitude fun and not too serious? It needs to be something that drafts off the gregariousness of what's happening on the show," says Setliff. "So we thought occupying people's time during the commercial break is an ideal time to engage."
Bayer and friends used the Periscope broadcast to read out the lists of thank-yous from brand fans, submitted through its social channels.
"Ultimately it's about engaging people in the brand and what we do, and we thought a party that's fully outfitted by Kohl's, and Vanessa talking about the connection between the broadcast spots and Kohl's, would be a way to have a very natural fun event that integrates the brand in a natural way while giving viewers something to do during the broadcast ad break," says Setliff.