Samsung, J.C. Penney Make Huge Bets On the Oscars

High-Flying Tech Co. And Struggling Retailer Each Buy 6 Spots

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While the Academy honors the best in cinema storytelling during ABC's Oscar broadcast Sunday night, Samsung will be telling a story of its own during the commercial breaks.

The device manufacturer will run six commercials during the Academy Awards on Sunday. Each spot will be part of a running story about a video game publisher trying to develop a game called "Unicorn Apocalypse." The last of the episodic ads will feature an appearance by Tim Burton, director of "Beetlejuice" and "Edward Scissorhands," trying to turn "Unicorn Apocalypse" into a feature film.

The first ad will be 60 seconds, the next four will be 30 seconds and the final ad featuring Mr. Burton will run for 90 seconds. Samsung will also be running a spot unrelated to the "Unicorn Apocalypse" series during ABC's Oscars pre-show coverage. The spots were created by 72andSunny, which also did their Super Bowl spots with Seth Rogan and Paul Rudd.

For Samsung, the ad buy is an attempt to build on the momentum the company gained with its popular, hilarious start-studded Super Bowl ad that featured comedic actors Rob Odenkirk, Seth Rogen and Paul Rudd and reigning NBA MVP Lebron James.

J.C. Penney confirmed today it has also purchased six spots related to the Oscars broadcast. One spot each will air during the pre-show and red carpet, while four ads will air during the awards show. The spots were created by The Bureau, an agency that has worked with Apple in the past and is now working solely with JC Penney. A spokeswoman for J.C. Penney declined to comment on the creative, beyond saying that it is a new campaign, which will be ongoing.

A year ago J.C. Penney used the Oscars to educate consumers about its new policies and pricing model. Four spots, in which Ellen DeGeneres went back in time to see whether befuddling return policies and pricing strategies have always been the norm, ranked among the most effective commercials to roll out during the broadcast, according to Ace Metrix. In one ad, Ms. DeGeneres attempted to return a toga in ancient Rome but was thwarted by her lack of a receipt.

The massive ad buy comes at a tricky time for the retailer, which has been grappling with falling sales, a highly publicized lawsuit involving Macy's and Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia and consumer confusion over its shifting pricing policies.

Compelling creative on one of the year's biggest stages would be a big win for the retailer. J.C. Penney and CEO Ron Johnson are under intense pressure to turn around sales, which have been in free fall for the last three quarters.

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