It’s Not Just Ken; This Oscar Guy Must Know Something, Too


(By John Shomby) Did you watch the Oscars a few Sundays ago? Only three years after the least-watched Academy Awards broadcast in history, the show was a pleasant surprise with its quick pace, entertaining content, and clever comedy, led by host Jimmy Kimmel.

After a while, I was taking notes with some lessons for radio from Hollywood’s biggest night.

Know Your Audience and Super-Serve Them

As box offices continue their slow climb to get back to pre-COVID attendance numbers, this show was a celebration of the movies designed for movie lovers. 

The show featured more clips than I’ve seen in quite a while – plus, how cool was it to have five former winners on stage to announce and present all the actor and actress awards? In addition, we weren’t subjected to long presentations around categories like sound editing (no offense to those behind the scenes) and other less familiar ones. Producers targeted the average moviegoer in every minute of the show.  

Any programmer knows that before anything hits the air, you MUST know who your audience is and what it will take to maintain interest. 

Do Something to Create Talk and Memorability

The “I’m Just Ken” performance by actor Ryan Gosling and the stage full of “Kens” won the night. The production, the size of the group, Guns ‘N Roses lead guitarist Slash, the audience participation – it was, and still is, the most talked about segment of the show.

How often do we urge programmers to do something that their audience will remember and will stick with them? Morning show topical stunts, on-air music moments, etc. Be that station where the listeners expect the unexpected.

Take Risks

There is no doubt that sending wrestler-turned-actor John Cena on stage without a stitch of clothing (except for a strategically placed nominee card) presenting the Oscar for wardrobe was a big chance taken by the show’s producers. What could possibly go wrong? They did their best to answer that question prior to the show and they were able to pull it off (not literally, by the way). 

I do think there are times when you throw the regular rules out the window. I was part of a launch of a new CHR at a cluster as OM a few years back. Rather than just a simple change from rock to top 40, we turned the station into an all-Chinese-music format – introduced by our GM – for a weekend. We then made the official switch to CHR on a Monday morning. Imaging, music, everything was all Chinese-language. (Sidebar: there may have been something to that format. Three Chinese restaurants in the market called that weekend wanting to advertise on the new station.)

There is still talk in that market about that stunt. Don’t be afraid to do something out of the ordinary. 

Believe In and Trust Your On-Air Talent

Host Jimmy Kimmel was made aware of a social media post from a former president that wasn’t very complimentary of him or the show. Since they were running ahead of time, he considered addressing it. His producer cautioned him, but Jimmy lit up and said, confidently, “I got this” and we get another memorable moment.

His producer’s reason for the green light? “I knew whatever he did would work because this is where Jimmy shines – in these situations.” The fact that that producer was Kimmel’s wife adds even more to the moment. Have confidence in your air talent and make them aware that you trust them in key situations. Let them know that you stand by them. If you can’t, then you have the wrong air talent on your station.

Find “Influencers” in your market

According to Brandwatch, this year’s event saw over 4.4 million online mentions, an increase of 18% from the event in 2023. The big viral moments? Ryan Gosling’s “I’m Just Ken” performance, Robert Downey Jr’s acceptance speech, and the best picture announcement.

Outside of the Dolby Theatre, The Academy hired YouTube sensation Amelia Dimoldenberg to handle red carpet interviews online. Result? Over 818,000 views that night. Watch the interviews here. There are influencers in your market. Do your homework, find them, then find exciting ways to work together for the benefit of both parties.

None of this guarantees success but, like Oscar night, it certainly could help create some memorable moments – and a bigger audience.

Based in Nashville, TN, John Shomby is the owner and CEO of Country’s Radio Coach. He is focused on coaching and mentoring artists, radio programmers, and on-air talent to help them grow and develop inside the radio station and the industry. Reach John at [email protected] and 757-323-1460. Read John’s Radio Ink archives here.


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