- Wal-Mart, which will be advertising during the Academy Awards telecast for the first time when this year's event airs Feb. 26, has drafted famous filmmakers Antoine Fuqua, Marc Forster and the team of Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg to direct the commercials the retailer plans to run during the program, according to AdAge.
- The directors each will make a 60-second short film using a Wal-Mart receipt as their inspiration. The six items on the receipt include bananas, paper towels, batteries, a scooter, wrapping paper and video baby monitor.
- Kohls and J.C. Penney are among retailers that have had exclusive sponsorships of the Oscars telecast in the past, though it was not immediately clear Wal-Mart had the same status.
"As the world's largest brand, and a company that sells just about everything, we plan to be more involved, more engrained in the cultural moments that our customers care about, starting with the Oscars," Wal-Mart U.S. CMO Tony Rogers said in a statement. He also described the Academy Awards program as a "great way to connect with our customers in a fresh, new way."
Wal-Mart has picked an interesting time to make that connection. The awarding of the Oscars, both as a process and an event, is often accused of being too old and too white (although claims of the latter might be quieted somewhat this year with at least six African-Americans nominated in major categories). This year's awards also feature nominations of two men — Mel Gibson and Casey Affleck — who have been accused of crimes against women in the past (and in Gibson's case, anti-Semitic remarks as well.)
All this controversy doesn't exactly seem like a good fit for a brand often thought of as conservative-minded. Although, Wal-Mart also said that as part of its Oscars sponsorship, it is donating $250,000 to The Academy Grants Program for FilmCraft, a gesture intended to demonstrate the retailer's support for diversity in filmmaking. So, its heart is in the right place.
Overall, hiring well-known directors to make their advertising spots is a good move. Film-literate viewers know those directors and their styles and inclinations, and likely will pay attention. What will they come up with? Prediction: Fuqua's spot will somehow make Wal-Mart look music video-slick and feature Denzel Washington as a greeter with a dark, violent secret; Rogen & Goldberg's will be a bickering, bantering bromance in which the bananas are at some point used to mimic a sexual act; Forster's will be a genre-bending piece with great performances and completely unlike the dozen or so other films he's made — actually, that sounds like one really interesting Wal-Mart ad.
In any case, this is apparently the first year of a multi-year deal for Wal-Mart to sponsor the Academy Awards. Maybe it will strike gold. If not, there's always next year — which is what the Academy kept telling Peter O'Toole.