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The Brand Reputation Consequences of the Oscars' Best Picture Flub

February 28, 2017


By now, Sunday’s Academy Awards blunder, when presenters Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway mistakenly called Best Picture for La La Land when the real winner was Moonlight, is probably old news.

However, PricewaterhouseCoopers, the New York-based accounting firm responsible for the mistake, is still be feeling the repercussions.

An AdAge article speculates that the Best Picture incident may bring brand reputation consequences for PwC, who has been in charge of tallying up votes from Academy members for the previous 83 years.

“It’s a very public opportunity for them to show off the attributes of the PwC brand — their accuracy, their integrity and their ability to keep things confidential,” says Katie Sprehe, director of reputation research at Washington D.C.-based APCO Worldwide, regarding PwC’s role at the Oscars.

PwC issued a statement on Monday, apologizing for handing Beatty and Dunaway the wrong envelope. (They were given a spare Best Actress one rather than the envelope for Best Picture.) Tim Ryan, U.S. chairman and senior partner of PwC, further clarified this by telling USA Today, “It was a little chaotic and just took time to get out onstage and let people know that the mistake was made. And unfortunately that took enough time to get through two-and-a-half acceptance speeches."

However, Thomas Fladung, vice president of Hennes Communications, which specializes in crisis management, tells AdAge that PwC may have to work harder to remind people that the brand is still trustworthy and meticulous in the wake of such a widely-publicized error.

“There's the old [saying], when you mess up, you fess up and you fix up," says Fladung. "They have to be sincere — it’s the action behind the words that is how you come out with your reputation intact.” — Dean Essner


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