2017 Oscars: How the “Fences” Came Down

What a difference a year makes. Last year people were boycotting the Oscars because it lacked diversity. This year, we saw a record-breaking number of nominations and Black actors being honored.  So what happened that turned #OscarsSoWhite into #OscarsSoBlack? The answer is simple: inclusion.


As we close Black History Month, it’s gratifying to see an iconic global brand showcasing the importance of honoring the contributions of Black artists whose work continues to influence pop culture. At FCG, we love working with clients who understand the importance of inclusion and developing programs that are authentic and relevant. And while Black History Month is a great time for them to celebrate the contributions of the African-American community, we always advise that they continue the momentum 365.  So, we encourage Hollywood to keep it up.


At the 2016 Oscars, comedian Chris Rock, who was serving as host, joked, “I’m here at the Academy Awards, otherwise known as the White People’s Choice Awards.” Rock was playing off of the fact that not one Black movie or actor was nominated last year.  As a result, Nielsen reported that the program, which already lacks Black viewers, was down in African-American viewership by 2% from the previous year.  From all of the listening that we do on Black Twitter, we know the drop in audience can be directly attributed to the digital movements to boycott the show. Fast forward to this year’s ceremony, and we see the addition of Rock to the program in 2016 was the first move in a strategic plan to make sure that the Academy Awards was reaching “us” in an authentic way.


What a difference a person makes. With the election of Cheryl Boone Isaacs as president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the Academy made sure they had the right person with the right expertise, insights and perspectives in place, to guarantee a homerun. Boone Isaacs, who is the first African-American to serve as president, initiated an aggressive five-year plan to make the Oscars more diverse. Her plan, which consisted heavily of personnel and voting changes, got expedited after A-List stars including Jada Pinkett Smith and Spike Lee voiced their thoughts and started initiatives of their own, directed at boycotting the show.


As multicultural marketers, we applaud Hollywood for recognizing, valuing and honoring the talent of diverse populations. From the surprising and show-stopping Best Picture win for “Moonlight” to Viola Davis winning for Best Supporting Actress, outstanding performances by Black actors are breaking new ground. Likewise, it’s essential that brands value and connect with the multicultural audiences essential to their success, in a marketplace that continues to grow more black and brown.


The Oscars finally got it right. This year, no one was a “Hidden Figure” and it was great to see the “Fences” come down.


Brinton Flowers is an account executive at FCG.

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