Decoding the surprises behind this year’s Oscar triumphs

UnrulyEQ emotional analysis decodes audience responses to the trailers behind this year’s big Oscar winners at the 91st Academy Awards.

This year’s 91st Academy Awards was full of surprises, and the headline trophies were all hotly contended. But what emotional characteristics did the trailers for this year’s Oscar films have in common, and how successful were they as promotional tools?

Green Book: inspiring and successful

  • Oscar Wins: Best Picture, Best Supporting Actor (Mahershala Ali), Best Original Screenplay,
  • Global box office to date: $127.1m

The autobiographical story of pianist Dr Don Shirley on a concert tour of the deep south in the early 60s was one of the surprise wins of the evening, and trailer evoked some strong emotions and success metrics.

The dominant emotions were Inspiration (24% against a US norm of 10%), Happiness (9% against US norm 13%) and Warmth (19% against a US norm of 7%), with Pride in strong fourth place. Most people shared the trailer with the purpose of seeking the opinion of their peers. Green Book more or less matched US norms for Shock (3% against US norm 3%) and Surprise (15% against a US norm 13%), and registered lower than normal levels of Confusion and Disgust.

Purchase Intent was very strong (scoring 54% against a US norm of 39%) as was Favourability (68% against a US norm of 39%). The Green Book trailer also drove a strong desire for viewers to find out more about the film, scoring 58% over a US norm of 39%.

The Favourite: funnier for UK audiences?

  • Oscar Wins: Best Actress (Olivia Coleman)
  • Global box office to date: $83.2m

The story of Queen Anne and her relationships with the women in her court made Olivia Coleman a regular fixture in this year’s film awards.

Despite its popularity with awards juries, the trailer for the Favourite divided audiences. Although the dominant emotion in the trailer was Happiness (10%), this fell below the US norm of 13%, the same was true with Inspiration (8% compared to 10% US norm). Billed as a comedy, the trailer did score 8% for Hilarity, over a US norm of 4%. Interestingly, UK audiences also scored 8% for Hilarity, over a UK norm of 2%, indicating that British audiences were more receptive to the humorous elements in the trailer.

US audiences registered higher levels of Confusion than UK audiences (19% US compared to 14% UK), and also scored higher for Contempt (10% in the US, 7% in the UK).

Purchase Intent was strong for US audiences, scoring 43% compared to a US norm of 39%. Again, this was much stronger in the UK (44% compared to 30%).

Bohemian Rhapsody: big on Nostalgia

  • Oscar Wins: Best Actor (Remi Malek), Best Editing, Best Sound Mixing, Best Sound Editing.
  • Box office to date: $860.8m

Despite controversies surrounding its production, the biopic of Queen frontman Freddie Mercury has been a financial juggernaut at the box office.

Happiness was the dominant emotion in this trailer, scoring 20% against a US norm of 13%, this was closely followed by Nostalgia at 16%, which massively over-indexed against a US norm of 2%. This was to be expected due to the subject matter and the use of a soundtrack built around the hits of Queen. Strong feelings of Inspiration, Amazement and Exhilaration were also experienced by audiences, scoring 15%, 9% and 8% respectively.

The dominant social motivations for sharing the Bohemian Rhapsody trailer were Opinion Seeking (27%) and Shared Passion (20%). Bohemian Rhapsody scored well below the US norm for Confusion (5% against a US norm of 12%) and closely matched norms for Surprise, Shock and Disgust.

The strong positive emotions translated into powerful business metrics, with Purchase Intent scoring 55%, Find out more at 54% and Favourability at 52%, all significantly out-performing US norms, which explains the enormous box office success of the film.