Marijane Funess February 24, 2012 | 08:00:55

They’d Like to Thank the Academy – Oscar PR Hijacks!

Leveraging the Academy Awards to steal thunder for some Hollywood project or another is a longstanding PR tradition.
It’s playing out now as Sacha Baron Cohen, master of on-camera disguise (and, some would say, disgust!) has been banned from attending as his latest character, “The Dictator.” The Academy feels he might “violate the sanctity” of an event that regards itself as a celebration of film-making, not an example of crass commercialism. You’d think the savvy strategists behind this most PR-able of events would realize that the minute they “banned” Baron Cohen, his publicity quotient shot sky-high!

The movie industry isn’t exactly shy about self-promotion. The Academy Awards began as a way to generate press coverage for the movies and stars of the day. Well-orchestrated PR campaigns designed to get people into theaters have helped many films’ box office success.

In fact, The Blair Witch Project was not nominated for an Academy Award when it came out in 1999, but that didn’t stop it from receiving major press and setting the standard for today’s scary movies made from “found footage.” Producers intimated that the thriller’s documentary style was authentic. They even listed the film’s lead actors (the supposed filmmakers) as “missing, presumed dead” on the fledgling IMDB. The film cost just $35,000 to make but pulled in more than $248 million worldwide.

Another recent showbiz PR stunt is The Golden Collar Awards. You’ve never heard of the prestigious honor? It’s important this year because one of the stars of Best Picture favorite “The Artist” won the coveted prize, adding to the film’s media momentum. Uggie, (“You-gie”) the canine cutie from the film, beat out other nominees — Triumph the Insult Comic Dog, a hand puppet, and Antonio Banderas on behalf Puss in Boots, an animated cat. The “losers” then staged a “protest” which only added to the hype.

Keep your eyes peeled this Awards weekend; there may be more highjinks to come!

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