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While advertisers on the Academy Awards telecast and the Super Bowl pay $1 million or more for 30-second spots, those buying Oscar ads aren't getting much bang for their buck, according to a new study by Leo Burnett Co.'s Starcom USA unit.

"Claimed attentiveness to Oscar ads [was] quite low, on a par with typical viewing," said the study, which added that "many viewers did other things at commercial breaks."

Of those who claimed to have watched at least some portion of the March 21 show on ABC, only 14% said they primarily watched the ads during the commercial breaks.

In a similar telephone survey Starcom did after the Jan. 31 Super Bowl, 45% of those who watched some part of the game said they primarily watched ads during breaks.


Comparing this year's Super Bowl, the May 1998 "Seinfeld" finale, and the Academy Awards, the new phone survey noted that the Oscars "has event-type pricing but has not quite reached 'event status' in viewing."

For the survey, Starcom interviewed 413 people via phone on the day after the Oscar telecast.

The average price for a 30-second spot during the Super Bowl, "Seinfeld" finale and Oscars was $1.6 million, $1.8 million and $1 million, respectively, the survey said. But in terms of share of viewers watching TV at the time, the Super Bowl pulled a 61 share, "Seinfeld" a 58 share, and the Academy Awards a 44 share.

As reported earlier, the ratings for this year's Oscar show were considerably lower than last year's, when the popular "Titanic" won the most awards and the show received a 55 share, according to Nielsen Media Research.

ABC has "done its job in terms of making the Oscars an event," says Kate Lynch, Starcom VP-media research director. "Now it's up to the advertisers to use them to showcase their best work and create some more hype like the Super Bowl to increase attentiveness."

Ads from American Express Co., The Gap and Pepsi-Cola Co., most of which featured new creative, drew the highest brand awareness in the Oscar survey.


An ABC spokeswoman said in response to this survey that two others have shown the opposite.

"Recently, two separate studies-from MediaCom and Ogilvy & Mather-have shown that viewers are exceptionally involved both in the Oscar telecast and the advertising that surrounds it," she said. "There is a reason that there's a waiting list of advertisers for this event every year. It is the premier entertainment event on television, and is the single best way for an advertiser to reach more than half of the women in this country in one sitting."

In the referred-to O&M telephone survey of 504 viewers, respondents who watched the show the longest said they were more inclined to watch the ads, have positive feelings toward the sponsors and were more inclined to purchase the products and services advertised than those who watched the show for a shorter duration.

Ms. Lynch said that finding is not contradictory to what Starcom found. "We found that 19% of those who watched all or most of the program said they watched

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