“There are many theories to explain the absence of non-white acting nominees for this year’s Academy Awards: maybe the Academy members are racist; maybe they aren’t racist but are simply too white overall; maybe there just weren’t enough non-white performers this year. The debate goes on and on.
But what if it wasn’t just the biases of the anonymous membership? What if studios got exactly what they paid for?
The studios, after all, invest heavily in advertising and promotional campaigns for their films and actors, hoping to influence the Academy members who vote on Oscar nominations and wins. They buy splashy ads in the industry press, give out free tickets and DVDs to voting members and throw parties with famous people. And those efforts create narratives. Face it — nobody left “Creed” muttering, “My god, Sylvester Stallone is truly America’s best supporting actor.” And most people who talk about how much Leonardo DiCaprio deserves an Oscar this year probably1 didn’t see “The Revenant.”
I wanted to figure out how to quantify those nomination campaigns, and since there’s no way I’m getting into an Oscar party or a studio screening, I went to a library2 and inventoried every “For Your Consideration” advertisement3 appearing in Variety and The Hollywood Reporter ahead of the Oscar nomination voting deadline. I went through each issue released from November through Jan. 8, when nominations voting closed, found 363 “For Your Consideration” ads, wrote down the size and page of each ad, and photographed it. (You can download all this data at the bottom of this piece.)
As you can see in the table below,4 a strong promotional campaign is no guarantee of a desired nomination, but it’s pretty clear there’s a relationship between advertising and success. For this analysis, I looked at nominations for awards that recognize acting, directing and films as a whole.5 Of the top 10 advertised English-language films, six scored at least one nomination in those categories.6 Compare that with the 21st through 30th most advertised English-language films, of which only three got a nomination...”