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Scott McKain

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What you might not know about the Oscars AND what its decline means to your business…

Last night I was listening to my good friend, Dana Williams, on his weekly radio show. Dana mentioned that he and his wife tuned out of the Oscars ® broadcast — because they didn’t know the movies or performances that were being rewarded.

  • As someone who spent over a decade of my life as a nationally syndicated movie reviewer, that grabbed my attention.  

(By the way, if I had a vote — which I never have, and I’ll explain why in a moment — I, too, would’ve said that “Birdman” deserved the Best Picture award.)

Here’s what many people don’t know about the Oscars: When someone wins and says, “I’d like to thank the Academy,” it’s because the Oscars are chosen by a vote of the small, exclusive membership of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.  These are the best of the professionals in the varied fields of making movies who have been selected to Academy membership.  Movie critics or other interested parties — even filmmakers who aren’t members of the Academy — have no vote on the award.

  • However, it’s even more than that — with the exception of Best Picture, Academy members only vote on their speciality.  In other words, Academy members who are film editors vote for the Best Editing award — but have no say in who receives anything else.

If you’re an actor, for example, you may have a great deal of sentiment towards an older, friendly performer who has a body of work that deserves recognition.  Therefore, you might have voted for Art Carney to win — as he did over Jack Nicholson, Dustin Hoffman, and Al Pacino — back in 1974.

Or, you might think someone with a role of a person with a physical or mental challenge is harder to play than someone with fewer difficulties.  Therefore, you vote for Daniel Day Lewis in “My Left Foot” over Morgan Freeman in “Driving Miss Daisy,” Tom Cruise in “Born On the Fourth of July,” and Robin Williams in “Dead Poets Society.”

Jon Voight won as the wheelchair bound war protestor in “Coming Home” over Robert De Niro in “The Deer Hunter.” Dustin Hoffman certainly deserved to win for “Rain Man,” but I’d argue that Al Pacino’s performance as the blind lead character in “Scent of a Woman” paled in comparison to his other great performances that didn’t win — and this one shouldn’t have won over Denzel Washington as “Malcolm X” or Clint Eastwood in “Unforgiven.”  And, to me, Michael Keaton deserved it this year for Best Actor — although he didn’t receive the award.

The problem for the Oscars — and the Academy — is that what they’re doing is the same as any other professional association does at their respective annual meeting.  They are presenting awards to the people THEY deem deserving in that year — not necessarily who their customers might select.

It means that some nominees for Best Picture probably have had fewer viewers than the sequel to “Hot Tub Time Machine.”  It also means there is a congruency problem that must be confronted.

The Academy has to either take their audience into greater consideration when selecting and choosing the nominees and award recipients — or, accept that their program and the impact of the Oscar is going to diminish because of its irrelevance in the broader marketplace.

Let’s face it, the audience — by their purchase of tickets — has already voted that “American Sniper” is the movie of the year.  Yet, it failed to win any major awards — and its director, the aforementioned Clint Eastwood, wasn’t even nominated in his category.

So, what does this mean to your business?

You have to decide who makes up your specific, target audience.  If you want to appeal to your version of Academy members, then you have to understand the general public may feel a bit disenfranchised.  That’s OK for your business — you’re probably not going to have a billion people watching you, anyway.  Just don’t strive for mass acceptance if your actions show a focus on an elite few.  Rolex and Louis Vuitton are doing just fine without being sold at mass market retailers like Target.

If, on the other hand, your target is a broader constituency, you must be prepared for some in your group to believe that you are pandering for popularity.  That’s OK, too.  Apple found its great success when it broadened its product line to include music players and phones, not just computers specialized for the creative community.

The greatest problems occur when you try to play both games — and end up being distinctive in neither.

As my friend Dana mentioned last night — maybe the Oscars aren’t for him, anyhow.  The People’s Choice Awards suit him just fine.

  • You see, customers will always gravitate eventually to what appeals to them…and serves their best interests…even if the organizations seeking to reach them don’t understand.

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Scott McKain is a business leader, bestselling author, and Hall of Fame professional speaker.
Scott's latest book, "The Collapse of Distinction: Stand Out and Move Up While Your Competition Fails" reached the #1 spot on Amazon.com list of Customer Service Bestsellers! He is the author of two #1 additional business bestsellers (Amazon.com & 800-CEO-READ): "What Customers REALLY Want" (currently available in trade paperback) and "ALL Business is Show Business."
He is the Co-founder and Principal of The Value Added Institute, a think-tank that examines the role of the customer experience in creating significant advances in the level of client loyalty, and has appeared on multiple occasions as a commentator and analyst on FOX News Channel. His platform presentations have run the gamut from the White House lawn with the President in the audience carried live on CNN and NBC's "Today" show...to a remote outpost near the Amazon...all 50 states, seven Canadian provinces...and from Singapore to Sweden...Mexico to Morocco.
An inductee into the Professional Speakers Hall of Fame, he is also a member of "Speakers Roundtable" -- an elite, invitation-only group of twenty of the world's top business speakers.