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Fey and Poehler Push the Golden Globes Forward, But Will the HFPA Get in Its Own Way?

Posted by: Darcy Newell and Jennifer Vano on Tuesday, January 15 2013 02:30 PM

It's two days after the Golden Globe Awards. While the world debates the fashion, Argo's surprise wins and Jodie Foster's speech, we're thinking about what's happening with the brand.

In our first post, we analyzed the impact of the Golden Globe Awards' and the Academy Awards' hosts on the brands. It's important to note that both are pursuing new directions this year. The Hollywood Press Association (HFPA) swapped Ricky Gervais for Tina Fey and Amy Poehler at the Golden Globes. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) chose Family Guy creator Seth McFarlane for this February's Academy Awards in lieu of a more traditional host, such as last year's Billy Crystal.

Kudos HFPA. You chose well. According to Nielson Media Research, 19.6 million viewers tuned into Sunday's show, giving 2013 the highest ratings since 2007, a 17% increase from last year and a 28% improvement in the coveted 18 - 49 demographic.

As we predicted, Poehler and Fey nailed it, staying true to their personal brands while upholding that of the Golden Globes. The duo was at ease, playing off each other in a way that only SNL vets and real friends could. Keeping up with the Golden Globes' tradition of shocking audiences, they took digs at celebrities, but balanced insults with self-deprecation, goofy disguises and good natured jokes, such as the Meryl Streep flu bit ("Meryl Streep is not here tonight, she has the flu. And I hear she's amazing in it.") and calling the former president "Bill Rodham Clinton." They kept us laughing rather than cringing, living up to Fey's opening promise of wanting "to have a good time," but not "send anyone home in tears," leaving us feeling like we spent the night with old -- albeit hilarious -- friends, rather than a searing stand-up comic. (Ahem, Gervais.)

Viewers stormed social media to praise Fey and Poehler. At the time of this writing, they were mentioned more than 125,000 times on Twitter alone. Overwhelmingly positive, tweets have centered on three themes: viewers sharing their favorite moments, viewers requesting the duo host future Golden Globes and other award shows (including the Oscars) and, most importantly, that viewers tuned in solely because of Fey and Poehler.

Golden Globes 2013

So it seems that audiences are clear about what they want and expect from the brand: both a light-hearted celebration of accomplishments in television and film and a glimpse at celebrities as real people who appreciate a good joke.

But we sense the HFPA is struggling to own this identity, as it sometimes went too far trying to be funny -- such as during the speech from its president Dr. Aida Takla O'Reilly, which was punctuated with mediocre jokes and dated pop culture references. If there was a moment for the show to be serious, this was it, as too much silliness, especially when it falls flat, can undermine the HFPA's credibility.

Other times the show went too far in the other direction, aspiring to be like its more sophisticated counterpart. Take the show's opening line, which welcomed us to "the most glamourous night in television." Most exciting? Sure. Most unpredictable? Definitely. But most glamourous? That's an accolade better reserved for the Academy Awards.

So whether Fey and Poehler return to the stage next year or not, it's critical that the HFPA finds the right balance between snarkiness and positivity, surprise and polish, from host to content writing to production. If they do this, they'll be closer to securing a niche for their brand that meets audiences' expectations and delivers an experience we can't find anywhere else.

Agree with our assessment of Sunday night's show? Leave comments below or come talk to us in Intebrand's Facebook community. Make sure to check back in February for a look at Seth McFarlane's Academy Awards debut.

Darcy Newell and Jennifer Vano are Consultants in Verbal Identity for Interbrand New York.

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