There was little need for a five-second delay last night during ABC's telecast of the 76th Annual Academy Awards, which unfolded with few surprises and even less controversy. Sean Penn made a passing reference to WMDs, and Tim Robbins avoided the subject of Iraq entirely. Aside from a somewhat political speech from advertising/features dual-citizen Errol Morris -- and the very real danger of a Susan Sarandon wardrobe malfunction -- the show didn't provide viewers with much in the way of water-cooler fodder. And the ads -- which played to an audience of around 42.5 million, up from a disappointing 33.1 million last year -- did little to take up the slack.
Tiger reprises a classic Bill Murray role.
There were just a handful of new campaigns, and only a couple that took full advantage of the event. Ogilvy & Mather and American Express seized the moment with a movie parody in which Tiger Woods plays Carl Spackler, the demented groundskeeper made famous by sentimental favorite Bill Murray in the 1980 cult comedy Caddyshack. The spot, directed by Hungry Man's Bryan Buckley, was perfect for Oscar night, but will play just as well throughout the golf season. BBDO/New York and Diet Pepsi also served up a spot custom-made for the awards, in which Jason Biggs turns in an Oscar-worthy performance in pursuit of a cold diet cola. And, as reported here last week, Allstate tossed a meditation on fame into the mix.
Jason Biggs gives the performance of his life.
Other than that, the night's commercial breaks were filled with all-purpose pitches from MasterCard, Motorola, Washington Mutual and Hewlett-Packard; bland statements from Home Depot, Cadillac and L'Oreal; and retreads from Kodak, AOL and American Express, which ran a year-old ad featuring Martin Scorsese more than once. Rather than coming off as a "Super Bowl for Women" -- as the Oscars are touted nowadays -- this year's ads felt more like a collection of the big game's leftovers and reruns. To paraphrase Catherine Zeta-Jones, the ads had no nails.
To view ad highlights from the 76th Academy Awards, AdCritic subscribers can click here.