The Oscars, A recap on our study

Ben Johnson on 5 March 2014

We placed our bets and one of our predictions was correct. The Great Beauty won Best Foreign Film, but our predictions based on social data for Best Film fell short. The congratulations go to Steve McQueen and the crew from 12 Years a Slave and not American Hustle.

No surprise there though, the intention of the study was to measure social sentiment and reach and rank the films accordingly. Our predictions and the reality of the night were always expected to be at odds. The Oscars is an Industry event, based on the opinions of 6000+ registered academy members using a preferential voting system. Members rank each of the nine nominees one through nine. Movies with the fewest first-place votes are eliminated, with their ballots shifted to next highest-ranked film. The reallocating continues until one movie owns 50% plus one of the voting. This rewards the movies that enjoy a broad consensus. A particularly tough challenge for 12 Years a Slave a film that focuses on the brutal period of slavery in American history.

Major studios invest heavily in the run up to Oscars, the advertising is specifically targeted at academy members (and not selling movie tickets) with the purchase of placements on publications such as the LA Times, NY Times, etc. Spending this year is said to have equaled the 10 million USD used last year on Argo, Life of Pi, etc. For example Fox Searchlight ran ads for “12 Years” featuring lead actor Chiwetel Ejiofor and the words “It’s time.” As in: “It’s time” for Hollywood to honor a film that takes an unflinching look at American slavery. This final spending spree was reflected in our analysis. We saw some big changes in the numbers over the course of our study, particularly in the Dallas Buyers Club in the last week with huge jumps in the Twitter traffic. This was particularly interesting data  and showed what kind of influence this kind of marketing could have in the nominations.

This was an exciting little study to run and we look forward to repeating it next year and adding to our analysis by factoring in other relevant social networks. Maybe we’ll get it right, and maybe not – the fun is in trying to assess public opinion over a closed industry voting system.

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