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Published: Saturday, 2/21/2009

Ad buyers skittish about Oscars show


They gave out Oscars during previous recessions. Heck, they even gave out Oscars during each year of the Great Depression.

But the way Madison Avenue is behaving toward the 81st annual Academy Awards, to be broadcast by ABC tomorrow, one could be excused for believing that the ceremony was actually for the Razzie Awards, which mock the worst Hollywood movies.

Several Oscar sponsors from last year - among them General Motors, L'Oreal, and the Bertolli food line - are forgoing the program.

And many marketers that bought commercial time during the Oscars are behaving as if they had been placed in the witness protection program, declining to identify themselves or discuss their ad plans before tomorrow's boadcast.

It is estimated that ABC is charging about $1.4 million to $1.7 million for each 30 seconds of commercial time tomorrow, 20 percent less than last year.

But the Academy Awards show is still prized by many marketers.

"It's awards. It's the red carpet; we're absolutely happy we're there," said Carolyn Resar, vice president for marketing at TTI Floor Care North America, whose Hoover brand will make its first Oscar appearance.

The show is often referred to as "the Super Bowl for women" because in many years, more women watch the Academy Awards than the Super Bowl.

"The audience is a good fit with our target," said Caren Pasquale Seckler, group director for low-calorie colas at the Coca-Cola North America unit of Coca-Cola Co. in Atlanta.

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