While presenters and winners made political statements throughout last night's Oscars ceremony, Amazon-owned audiobook company Audible may have been taking a stand of its own with a string of ads it aired before, during and after the event.
During the show itself, the company aired a simple, sophisticated spot starring Zachary Quinto, best known for playing Spock in J.J. Abrams' "Star Trek" reboot and villain Sylar from NBC's sci-fi hit "Heroes." Shot in black and white, it features a close-up of Quinto as he reads an excerpt from George Orwell's "1984": "If he were allowed contact with foreigners, he would discover that they are creatures similar to himself and that most of what he had been told about them is lies. The sealed world in which he lives would be broken, and the fear, hatred and self-righteousness on which his morale depends, might evaporate."
The ad marks Audible's highest profile mainstream broadcast TV appearance and is just one in a series designed to celebrate the "performers whose voices bring books to life." The campaign was created in-house out of Audible and directed by Radical Media's Morgan Neville.
Against the backdrop of the current political climate, the "1984" spot can easily be interpreted as a direct nod to the Trump administration's immigration ban. Outside of that context, it would feel like a bit of a head scratcher that the company would choose to feature the words of a dark, dystopian novel at an event as celebratory as the Oscars. Then again, Amazon may simply be riding the wave of newfound popularity the book has found, once again, in the Trump era. In January, the novel had jumped to #1 on its best-seller list following Trump spokesperson Kelly-Anne Conway's use of the Orwellian term "alternative facts" on "Meet the Press."
Outside of the "1984" ad, Audible also ran a spot prior to the show that feels quite pertinent given recent Trump administration decisions around education and the press. It featured "Homeland" actress Claire Danes reading from Victor Hugo's "Les Miserables": "Society is to blame for not providing free public education, and society will answer for the obscurity it produces. If the soul is left in darkness, sins will be committed. The guilty party is not he who has sinned but he who create the darkness in the first place."
Other commercials starred "Luke Cage" actor Mike Colter reciting a passage from "To Kill a Mockingbird" about courage, English actor Jim Dale reading lines from "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone" about humans' unfortunate choice-making, and yet another featured Alan Cumming recounting from "Lord of the Rings": "The world is indeed full of peril, and in it there are many dark places, but still there is much that is fair and though in all lands love is now mingled with grief, it grows perhaps the greater."