The Power of the Public Vote

Exploring the crucial role audience awards play in engaging fans and brands in the fight to stay relevant.

Ahead of this month’s Oscars, the Academy recently announced a brand-new film category, the ‘fan favourite’ voted by Twitter users. Another move to democratise the Hollywood awards structure, by giving films most important critic – ‘the fan’ – the deciding vote.

By partnering with Twitter, the show can adapt to decreasing viewing figures. As Meryl Johnson, digital marketing VP at the Academy, said: “We’re thrilled to partner with Twitter to help build an engaged and excited digital audience leading up to this year’s ceremony.”

The Academy is not alone.

BAFTA TV’s audience award, the Virgin Media’s Must-See Moment Award, continues to galvanise TV fans and celebs alike six years on. Created by M&C Saatchi Sport & Entertainment, it is celebrates the moments on TV that nation couldn’t stop talking, tweeting or Tik Toking about. Last year dance troupe Diversity took home the award for their breath-taking and poignant performance on BGT, a moment that gripped headlines, spurred outrage, and drove important conversation. Virgin Media gave fans a chance to have their say, and the British Public made their support of Diversity and the BLM very clear. That is the power of the fan.

Brits 2022 also saw the launch of public voted categories powered by TikTok with a new hashtag #BRITsTok alongside exclusive content from Nathan Evans, RAYE, Joy Crookes and others. And no wonder, with 2021 digital figures up 60% with 1.7million YT, event videos 15m views within days and social engagement up 125% YOY, I doubt they’re too worried about the recent viewing figure headlines. They know where their audience is and how they like their content. And commercially, this provides an exciting opportunity for brands, to connect with fans through the things that they love, but when and where they want to.

But it’s not just declining viewing figures that award shows need to tackle to stay relevant.

There has been new focus on the suitability of gendered categories, with the Brits again announcing their gender-neutral awards. And 47% of music fans agreeing that award shows should ditch categories for men and women and instead offer combined awards.  And there are rumours that BAFTA will follow suit, with Chief Executive Amanda Berry confirming recently that the subject is under consideration.

BAFTA is a brilliant example of an organisation tackling the most important industry issue head on, diversity and representation of members, nominees and winners. Following a backlash in 2020, BAFTA led the way by transforming the organisation to be more open and inclusive, following a ground-breaking independent review that resulted in 120 changes to the voting membership and campaigning rules.

Sara Putt, deputy chair of the Academy and chair of the television committee, told Variety: “I think [BAFTA] has changed, and is changing, and will continue to change. I think the review was very much about taking a long look at where we were, and how we could be better and how we could future-proof ourselves.”

But change is not so apparent everywhere.

For the Golden Globes, after many promises of reform, the HFPA failed to deliver any meaningful change which resulted in a mass boycott, with no broadcast, no celebs and arguably now, perhaps no future?

But as the rest of the industry adapts in order to ‘future-proof’ itself, the role of the public vote will be pivotal. Not only do they galvanise fans and catapult a category into the public zietgiest, but they are totally inclusive at their core.  They represent what we truly love, what we can’t stop talking about, they give us the power to choose our winner. They give our water cooler moments a global stage and brands a chance to share it.

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