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Whew! The 2011 Emmy ballots have all been cast as of 5 pm Friday. Nominations won’t be out until July 14, so it’s time to take a breath and look back. Lots of the academy’s 15,000-plus eligible voters are out of breath, even if they bypassed the trip to the mailbox by voting online. “It took me a full 40 minutes to fill out my nominations ballot,” voter and contender Kyra Sedgwick tells The Hollywood Reporter, “and I’m relatively skilled at it. If you don’t know what you’re doing, it could be even tougher.”
Tech is transforming the race in other ways, too. “Three years ago we started streaming episodes of our shows online for academy members,” says Showtime evp corporate communications Richard Licata, “and this year the number of people watching episodes online is up 40%.” That could affect the race itself, if it draws in more younger, tech-friendly voters (recipients of traditional DVD screeners are presumably an older demographic).
The biggest change this year could be the jump-starting of an Emmy campaign season analogous to the frenzied Oscar race, in part thanks to the new Emmy-predictor-wannabe Critics Choice Television Awards, the counterpart to the Critics Choice Movie Awards that partly predict and help to fan the flames of Oscars. Though the show’s audience on ReelzChannel were tiny, the founders didn’t even expect it to be telecast for years. But lots of stars turned up for the fledgling show, and even if it doesn’t take off, many Emmy hopefuls and voters on the Emmy trail tell THR it seems as if the pace of campaigning is heating up this year, and fated to get hotter.
Here are five campaigns that tried to heat up their candidates’ chances, and succeeded in getting our attention. They constitute entertainment in their own right.
1. Pee-wee Herman’s Melissa Leo Oscar “Consider” ad parody.
“I was flying back to Los Angeles shortly after the Oscars and all the magazines I had to read on the plane were already old — they were the Oscar Issues of every magazine,” Paul Reubens (who plays Pee-wee) tells THR. “And they all were handicapping all the nominee’s chances. Every single one talked about Melissa Leo’s ads and said she should win but wouldn’t because of her ads. I hadn’t seen them so that certainly piqued my interest. Then, once I had the idea it was very quick. Someone I work with, Jim McCune, did the actual work on it and we went back and forth a few times before we got it where we liked it.”
Jimmy Kimmel also did a similar parody. “I don’t think I saw any [other Emmy campaign ad] except, coincidentally, Jimmy Kimmel’s parody of Melissa Leo’s other ad, the closer up one,” says Reubens. “I sort of thought it was a companion to mine — we both had the same idea but thankfully chose separate photos. The only other stuff I saw was all the incredible packaging for all the Emmy consideration screeners. HBO, where my show is, always does amazing For Your Consideration screeners so I was very excited to see the key art for my show represented on their box!”
And if Reubens sees Melissa at the Emmys, what will he say? “I’m not sure I’d recognize her without my head on her body! I would run over to her and make sure she thought it was all okay and in good fun. She’s such an amazing talent it would be an honor to meet her and get a chance to shower her with compliments!?”
2. Warner Bros. Television’s supersized screener box.
The Television Academy encourages all FYC materials to be no larger than a standard mailbox, and Warner made sure those mailboxes were fully occupied with a big red screener box — so big it inspired an hilarious Stephen Colbert routine razzing it as he opened it. “If you didn’t have time to check out any of Warner Bros’ shows, they sent out this convenient package. All you have to do is pull the unit from its rhomboid shaped cardboard box, slip off the black cummerbund, open the Ark of the Screener, slip off the second, teardrop-shaped cummerbund, unfurl these giant posters, and then at the bottom, you’ve got a DVD screener of The Big Bang Theory.
Colbert, who likes to bemoan his loss of Emmys to Barry Manilow, also gets campaign kudos for his fight against Jimmy Fallon’s Emmy campaign screener, which features a picture of Colbert on his show. “The worst part is you didn’t even submit the episode I’m on!..Thank you, Jimmy Fallon, for appropriating my face to boost your own Emmy chances…May riding my coattails in your screener bring you an Emmy as surely as riding Queen Latifah’s coattails in Taxi brought you an Oscar.”
3. Showtime’s “For Your Consideration” Parody Ads.
In 2009, one pundit who doubted Showtime’s Emmy strategy ran this headline: “Is Showtime’s Richard Licata an Idiot?” “If my kids google me, that comes up,” says Licata. “Showtime did have the last laugh, though, because we wound up with the biggest haul of nominations and wins in our over 3 decade history — and the most original series nominations in cable television. I could’ve been throwing myself in front of a bus on Lankershim Boulevard on the morning of the nominations.”
Instead, Licata survived to celebrate, and this year his team wrapped over 100 buses with Showtime ads featuring its antihero Emmy hopefuls, united by taglines with FYC puns: “For Your Self-Medication [Edie Falco, Nurse Jackie]. For Your Pontiff-ication [Jeremy Irons, The Borgias]. For Your Premeditation [Michael C. Hall, Dexter].” The ads also appear in dazzling electronic billboards on Westwood Boulevard and elsewhere in L.A. that morph every eight seconds from one ad to another, driving home the Showtime branding message. Not so dumb.
4. USA Network’s Dog-Targeted Campaign.
Why did USA Network market its Emmy hopefuls by handing out dog treats with their images in Runyon Canyon, Griffith Park, and hiking spots around LA? “This is such a cluttered space, and people’s consumption patterns are so splintered, it’s hard to break through creatively,” says Alexandra Shapiro, USA Network’s svp brand marketing and digital. “So we gave out organic doggie bones with FYC messages for like Burn Notice and White Collar in places you wouldn’t normally assume there’s an ad medium.” Her “brand ambassadors” also handed out water bottles to man and beast and enviro-friendly tote bags at the Farmer’s Market. “We used photography of our entire actor list from Robert Maxwell to keep the look and feel consistent, and make this campaign iconic.” If you want to woo a stranger, bring a dog; if you want to woo viewers, make them and their dogs happy. “That’s when marketing is successful,” says Shapiro, “when it makes you feel good.”
5. History Channel’s Pawn Stars campaign.
We know some prefer an in-your-face Emmy campaign ad, like AMC’s Walking Dead man Michael Rooker’s “For Your Emmy Consideration: Michael ‘F**cking’ Rooker.” But we like the more decorous, old-fashioned puckishness of the History Channel’s bid for its show Pawn Stars, which is No. 1 on cable in the 25 to 54 demo: “If you give us an Emmy, we promise not to sell it.” Since its makers have a sense of history, this could be an homage to last year’s Modern Family Emmy ad: “You make us a deal. You give us an Emmy, we stay out of the tabloids.”
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