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The Oscars are full of grandiose accolades, fawning, excessive adulation and platitudes. When those involve someone behind the scenes, viewers often tune out, as the insider flattery falls flat.
A new campaign helps poke fun at this ritual with film stars and award-winning filmmakers singing the praises of an entertainment industry icon who has had a lasting impact on their careers and lives: Otto Descinski, affectionately known to his friends as Otto Desc.
The campaign by Ryan Reynolds’ Maximum Effort pays tribute to Otto Desc, a fictitious Hollywood legend feted in a series of ads by actor Ron Perlman, writer/director/actor Elizabeth Banks, Academy Award-winning VFX supervisor Paul Lambert, and Academy Award-nominated cinematographer Mandy Walker.
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A voiceover calls Desc a “world builder, a dream maker, a visionary,” while Banks says she wouldn’t be the filmmaker she is today without Desc. Perlman even states that “if Hollywood had a Mt. Rushmore, Otto would be on it,” while Lambert states with all certainty, “What’s your favorite movie? I bet Otto worked on it.”
In the third and final spot, where Otto Desć is being presented with an award, a woman walks onto the stage and announces there is no Otto and that it’s really the software technology product, Autodesk, that’s getting the accolades. Perlman proceeds to get up and walks off set, muttering expletives.
The faux documentary spots debuted on Oscar night to drive awareness for Autodesk, a leader in design-and-make software. Autodesk’s technology helps Hollywood’s elite creatives and innovators—as well as architects, engineers, students and more—”make anything,” as the tag on the ad states.
Maximum Effort worked with and Jimmy Kimmel’s Kimmelot on the campaign, and Kimmelot’s Dan Sanborn orchestrated the creative partnership with the Oscars, coinciding with Kimmel hosting the show.
“Maximum Effort loves playing with the cultural landscape, and the Oscars are a major cultural event,” said Reynolds in a statement. “Autodesk has been a secret weapon for Hollywood’s artists for decades, and what better way to highlight that than to create a fake man of vaguely Germanic descent to receive an award that doesn’t exist?”
Reynolds went on to thank his Definitely, Maybe co-star Banks, the legendary Perlman as well as Walker and Lambert “for taking serious stuff so unseriously. Also if you’re thinking Otto Desć looks suspiciously like Academy Award nominee and Free Guy VFX [supervisor] Swen Gillberg, you’d be wrong. No further questions.”
While Autodesk software is used by millions to make everything from green architecture and engineering, construction projects, manufacturing, media, education and entertainment industries, the brand hasn’t really had a media coming out.
Since its software is used to make movies as well, Autodesk thought the Oscars would be a perfect time to launch a brand statement, one that includes the tagline “Make Anything.”
“Autodesk is how the world gets designed and made, whether it’s a greener building, a cleaner car or an award-winning movie, but we haven’t really told that story. We haven’t talked about why we matter to the world and why we matter to our customers,” Dara Treseder, chief marketing officer at Autodesk, told Adweek.
When Treseder joined as CMO last year, coming over from Peloton, she brought along the agency she had worked with, Maximum Effort, as a creative partner. The agency and brand brainstormed on how to show the world that Autodesk makes the software that its customers use to make a multitude of things, and the Oscars felt like the right moment.
“Here’s an opportunity for us to celebrate the biggest names in Hollywood on the biggest stage, and celebrate the technology that often is behind the scenes. You don’t get these amazing movies, you don’t get Avatar, without the Autodesk software,” said Treseder.
Reynolds utilized his Hollywood connections to bring in Perlman, Banks, Lambert and Walker, giving the campaign even more credibility in its documentary-style presentation. The four filmmakers help show the full spectrum of the way Autodesk software impacts different artists, from actors to directors, cinematographers and VFX specialists.
In helping design the campaign, Maximum Effort served as more than just an agency for Autodesk.
“One of the things I love about Maximum Effort is they’re not just a creative agency. They’re really a strategic business partner for us. They understand how to create and how to use brand to drive business value and business results,” she added.
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Treseder hopes the Oscars campaign helps with brand recognition, explaining why the brand matters to its customers and why it matters to the world. Most importantly, the company wants people to know that it can use its software to make anything they can imagine, especially things that help the planet like greener buildings, transportation and ways of doing things.
The company offers its software free to students and educators around the world, recently crossing the 60 million user mark in the education space.
Post-Oscars, Autodesk will continue to work with Maximum Effort to build on its tagline and momentum, using purpose-driven marketing to shine a light on its customers.
The Oscars moment between Maximum Effort, Kimmelot and Autodesk follows the success of The Walking Dead series finale campaign, in which Maximum Effort, Kimmelot and AMC Content Studios resurrected four previously killed off characters across five creative ads. Autodesk was one of five participating brands in the #WalkingDeadvertising campaign alongside Deloitte, DoorDash, MNTN and Ring.
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Kyle O’Brien is a staff reporter for Adweek and editor of AgencySpy.
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