The Oscars platform will be highly political but is the risk for brands worth it?

Award season is upon us. The politicians have had their platforms, used their channels, abused each other and indeed their social media accounts. Now it is the turn of the artists; the most democratically elected of public figures.

The Oscars represent opportunity and risk for brands linked to stars who speak out, argues Chloe Franses
The Oscars represent opportunity and risk for brands linked to stars who speak out, argues Chloe Franses

Certainly, they have been present whilst political debate has raged on, but now it is their moment.
Whether it’s Meryl Streep, Adele, or Emma Stone, artists are using their award platforms loud and clear.

Clearly, award shows have themselves becomes sites of intense political activism.

The pervasiveness of #OscarsSoWhite and the increase of celebrities now speaking out about racial oppression is evidence that awards are platforms for challenging all forms of political discrimination.

Whatever your view of celebrities' role in politics, the White House is now the hottest show in town, with a celebrity center stage – the awards season playing a supporting role of conflict and jeopardy.

Trump coverage is no longer reporting. It is shared viewership.

Being apolitical is out of the question, so what is the role of celebrities and how do brands who work with them manage such a politically-charged environment?

Is siding with these personalities more of an opportunity to cash in on the short hand to audiences, as opposed to the embracing of the responsibility – previously kept as a CSR insurance policy, rather than a marketing gem?

Or is an interest in the politics these celebrities bring up a sure-fire way to alienate key brand audiences?

The coverage ultimately decides.

Does this mean celebrity has engulfed itself? Rather than the media turning their backs, taking a journalistic stand, they are as glued to this show as the audience to which they broadcast.

Should Meryl Streep be drawing further attention to the West Wing’s new series – or should the coverage that she uses her screen time for be coming from the refugee camps and the human stories that have a glimmer of hope in delivering empathy?

Rather than images of polite red-carpet, conforming protests and brave Google legal teams uncomfortably enduring weak coffee at JFK, should we continue to be indulged in what we apparently want as audiences?

Or should these platforms be used to show what the media are no longer paid to do?

Should they not talk about Trump and the endless, oppressive orders, ranging from Muslim bans to stopping animal welfare policies – and rather, donate their airtime to #RealNews?

At a time of political unrest, communicators have a choice: tell a political story and choose a side, or tell a non-political story.

Either way, you are taking a side.

Celebrities, brands and those representing them make this choice everyday, but in the UK, arguably up until the 24 June 2016, there was a feeling (at least in the corridors of London’s media swollen members clubs) that British people did not want to be confronted with politics.

Apolitical was an acceptable position to take.

Now, as we venture into promoting and amplifying brand values in the new world order - sensitive to losing hard won loyal audiences or indeed, never engaging the holy grail of millennials – the challenge is whether to reflect or inform.

Chloe Franses is the founder of Chloe Franses & Co

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