Academy takes on diversity issue, marketers (mainly) stay clear

Twitter was active last night during the Academy Awards, social media managers skirted the controversy—except for one brand representative’s misstep.

During Sunday night’s Academy Awards, diversity and Leonardo DiCaprio took center stage, while brand managers jostled to be recognized as well.

The New York Times reported that Rock approached the diversity controversy both early and often:

Mr. Rock spent virtually the whole monologue on the subject of diversity, mostly spoofing it but occasionally adding more biting commentary, as when he quipped that the annual “In Memoriam” tribute would honor black people who were “shot by the cops on their way to the movies.”

The controversy caused some celebrities to boycott the event and social media users to criticize the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences under the hashtag #OscarsSoWhite.

Rock’s opening monologue was certainly not the only time that diversity took a front-and-center spot, The New York Times reported:

Thirty minutes into the show, Mr. Rock was still hitting the diversity theme, hard. He introduced a skit that had Whoopi Goldberg and others trying to edge their way into acting roles reserved for whites. Ms. Goldberg swished a mop next to Jennifer Lawrence in a scene supposedly from “Joy.” In another spoof, Jeff Daniels declined to spend $2,500 to save a stranded black astronaut, played by Mr. Rock, on Mars, in a takeoff on “The Martian.”

Ms. Goldberg was back later to introduce a video recap of the Governors Awards, which went to Gena Rowlands, Debbie Reynolds, and Spike Lee. “It’s easier to be president of the United States as a black person than be head of a studio,” Mr. Lee had said then. Cheryl Boone Isaacs, the academy’s president, immediately followed Ms. Goldberg with comments addressing the diversity issue.

“It’s not enough just to listen and agree,” Isaacs said. “We must take action.” RELATED: Keep cool in a crisis with these 13 tips.

Brand managers avoid the diversity issue

Social media managers for fashion brands such as Tiffany & Co.,Kenneth Cole, Burberry and Gucci were active throughout the awards ceremony:

Kohls’ marketers threw an Oscars Twitter party. Many brand’s social media managers chimed in with reactions to Oscars announcements or congratulations, especially to DiCaprio:

Some brand managers highlighted their organizations’ event sponsorships—or shamelessly (though sometimes cleverly) promoted their products:

UK-based advertising pro Mark Borkowski told The Guardian that brand managers avoid controversies such as #OscarsSoWhite unless the backlash turns toward them.

“It’s a controversy, and not a particularly good one because of its political nature,” Borkowski said.

He also told The Guardian that the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences would weather the storm over the controversy, partially due to its quick pledge to increase diversity in its organization:

“In this day and age there’s no such thing as terminally bad publicity, because everything comes and goes so quickly,” he said. “But if they have the same thing next year, then the Academy will have a real problem.”

The award for misstep goes to…

Though the Academy handled its controversy head on while most brand managers stayed safely away from it, Total Beauty’s social media team learned the hard way that a misstep can become a crisis when done at the worst time.

The brand’s social media team tweeted the following reaction to Whoopi Goldberg’s red-carpet appearance:

The tweet, which mistook Goldberg for Oprah Winfrey, stayed up for 45 minutes before being deleted. The apology came after an even longer period of time:

Though some Twitter users called it an honest mistake, many blamed brand managers for doing it on purpose to get attention. Other Twitter users lashed out at the brand for being insensitive:

After the Oscars, brand managers followed up on the apology with a move to charm critics and stem the social media backlash:

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