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Emmys 2017: Diversity and Other TV Advertiser Takeaways

September 28th, 2017   ||    by Melanie Brown   ||    No Comments

The 2017 Emmy Awards broadcast last Sunday, marking the start of the entertainment awards season. This year’s Emmys also marked something of a turning point in television, seeing more diverse winners, revitalized broadcast networks, and the large presence of streaming services.

In many ways, we’re at the height of television. There has never been more content—let alone good content—out there for consumption, and this year’s Emmys highlighted just that.

Here are a few key takeaways from this year’s ceremony that spelled success for content, and which advertisers can use as jumping-off points in creating campaigns and planning media buys.

Politics Pays Off

People used to say that it’s not polite to discuss politics. But 2016 and 2017 have thrown that out the window entirely—and it’s paid off enormously for television.

Host Stephen Colbert set the anti-Trump tone early, making it clear that the president would be the butt of many jokes throughout the evening. Colbert’s kitschy opening number touted television as an escape from what ails us in real life—a little ironic, considering the bulk of Colbert’s material involves disparaging the Trump administration.

Alec Baldwin nabbed an award for best supporting actor in a comedy for his portrayal of President Trump on Saturday Night Live. The show, which is currently in its 42nd season, saw a revival that it owes almost entirely to the 2016 political climate.

Melissa McCarthy also won for her much-beloved (if short-lived) portrayal of former White House press secretary Sean Spicer. (Her performance was so popular that Spicer himself, in a nod to the impression, made an appearance at the Emmys.) And lest we forget about Hillary Clinton, Kate McKinnon also grabbed an award for her portrayal of the candidate through the campaign and election.

While it’s probably not a good idea for advertisers to take strong political stances in their creative, the takeaway is this: Political satire is immensely popular, and the programming that utilizes it well does well with audiences at large. Depending on the target audience, advertisers would be wise to align themselves with that programming when placing ads.

Girl Power

The 2017 ceremony was a veritable parade of strong, talented women being hailed for their work. Shows like Veep, The Handmaid’s Tale, and Big Little Lies all took home big awards—and female-centric shows featured in categories across the board.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus took home a record sixth consecutive Emmy for her portrayal of Selina Meyer on HBO’s Veep. Elisabeth Moss finally got her due, winning for best lead actress in a drama after eight previous losses. The best supporting actress in a drama went to Handmaid’s Tale actress Ann Dowd, and best drama direction to its female director, Reed Morano.

Big Little Lies cleaned up in the limited-series category, earning wins in lead and supporting actress (Nicole Kidman and Laura Dern), as well as supporting actor (Alexander Skarsgard), directing (Jean-Marc Vallee), and outstanding limited series.

Advertising has long hailed women as the keepers of the keys when it comes to purchasing power, but much of the content out there has always been male-oriented. With women taking the spotlight this year, advertisers would do well to turn their female-focused ads to female-focused programming.

Diversity Matters

The 2017 Emmys saw an increase in nominations and awards for minority populations, and even a few “firsts” during the ceremony.

Lena Waithe became the first black woman to win an Emmy for outstanding comedy writing for the “Thanksgiving” episode of Netflix’s Master of None, which set its focal point on her sexuality. Aziz Ansari, the creator of the show, also won for the episode.

Riz Ahmed became the first Muslim man to win an acting Emmy, taking home the award for best lead actor in a limited series for HBO’s The Night Of.

This year’s ceremony was also the first that saw two black men winning for their lead acting roles. Sterling K. Brown won for his role in NBC’s This Is Us, and Donald Glover nabbed the award for outstanding lead actor in a comedy for his FX show, Atlanta.

Minority populations have long been underserved in the advertising world, meaning huge factions of the population have been skipped over in the process of targeting. Advertisers need to step up and start taking cultural differences into account when planning their campaigns.

And the Emmy Goes to . . . Squarespace?

At the Creative Arts Emmys, Squarespace took home the award for most outstanding commercial. The Super Bowl spot featured John Malkovich trying to reclaim his domain name ( from someone who isn’t John Malkovich.

For all the social, political, and racial undertones of this year’s Emmy Awards, the Squarespace ad was the only one nominated in its category that didn’t have an aspect of social consciousness.

So while audiences want diversity, social consciousness, and politics in their content, it seems that when it comes to advertising, people often gravitate toward humor above all else.

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