What TV program can bring in top A-list celebrities like Jimmy Kimmel, Tina Fey, Aziz Ansari, and Lin-Manuel Miranda for a glitzy night of celebration? The Emmys, of course!
The 69th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards will be held this Sunday, September 17th in the Microsoft Theater in LA. This year, the event will be aired on CBS at 8pm EST/5pm PST and the network has elected their own, Stephen Colbert, to host the ceremony.
“Saturday Night Live” and “Westworld” are tied for 22 nominations, the most of the night. Other nominations include “Stranger Things”, “Master of None”, and “Veep”.
But how did the Emmy Awards come about? Who came up with the idea? What can YOU as an event marketer learn steal from the Emmys’ event marketing strategy?
First, we’ll take a look at the history of the event. If you want to skip right to the lessons event marketers can steal from the Emmys, click here.
The Start of a Dream
After moving to Hollywood after World War II, Syd Cassyd worked his way from being a grip at Paramount Studios to becoming a journalist for Box Office magazine. Along with Klaus Landsberg, the duo started a TV station called KTLA-TV Channel 5. While working at the station, Syd felt that there needed to be an organization that could provide a space to discuss the topic of television. With only 4,000 televisions in homes in LA and only 50,000 nationwide, TVs were still a novelty at the time.
Syd made his vision a reality and on November 14, 1946, he called the first meeting of the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences (ATAS). Five people showed up. But Syd was undeterred and by the fifth meeting there were 250 members.
As the organization began to grow in numbers and influence, the founding fathers of the Academy decided that there needed to be a big image-building campaign. And so the Emmys were born.
The first Emmy Awards were held on January 25, 1949 at the Hollywood Athletic Club and was exclusively for LA television.
The first Primetime Emmy awards in 1949 via Daily News
The Woman with the Atom
Because the Emmys were founded by the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences, Syd Cassyd wanted to emphasize the importance of both art and science coming together. After rejecting 47 design proposals, the Academy chose the statuette designed by Louis McManus. His final piece showcases a gold-plated woman with wings stretching out from her back, raising an atom above herself. The wings symbolize the muse of art and the atom represents the electron of science, perfectly encapsulating the core values of the Academy.
Barbra Streisand winning an Emmy in 1965 via Daily News
Who Is Emmy?
Many awards originate their names from real people. In our post about what event organizers can steal from the Oscars, we explained how the award show in question got its name from the uncle of an Academy Award librarian who thought the statuette resembled her Uncle Oscar. The Tonys were named after Antoinette Perry, an influential actress, director, and advocate for theatre education.
So who is the original Emmy?
No one, actually. Syd Cassyd liked the name “Ike” but it was too similar to General Dwight D. “Ike” Eisenhower who would later be President of the United States. The name “Immy” was suggested, after the image-orthicon camera tube that was essential to the technological development of the TV. “Immy” was later adjusted slightly to “Emmy” for a more feminine feel to pair better with the statuette.
Battle of the Coasts
With the growing success of the LA Emmys, the organization decided to expand the Emmy Awards into a nationwide event. The National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences (NATAS) was formed in New York City in 1955 to assist with the day-to-day operations. However, in the 1960s, tensions grew between the coasts as staff president Bob Lewine decided to move the national office from New York to Hollywood. As the years went on, the LA chapter began to feel that the New York chapter was too liberal in their standards of voting rights. On the flip side, New York thought LA was too elitist in their standards.
Evidently, maintaining a cross-country relationship proved to be too difficult for the two chapters and they separated in 1977. But both groups maintained a shared responsibility for hosting the annual Emmy Awards and still do today.
The More the Merrier
Television is an extremely diverse field when it comes to programming and the Emmys wanted to recognize this. So in 1974, the Emmys held the first Daytime Emmy Awards to celebrate the work of national daytime programming. In the years following, more specific award ceremonies came into existence.
- International Emmy Awards
- Primetime Creative Arts Emmy Awards
- Technology and Engineering Emmy Awards
- Sports Emmy Awards
- News and Documentary Emmy Awards
- Regional Emmys
- College Television Awards
- Regional Emmy Awards
Now there are almost 30 different Emmy ceremonies throughout the year!
For Your Consideration
As the Emmy Awards grew in prestige and winning one of the coveted winged woman statuettes became an esteemed status symbol, networks began taking extra steps to snag votes in their favor. The Academy allots a period of time every year from January to June known as the Emmy For Your Consideration (FYC) promotion period where nominated networks can campaign for votes for their shows. This started in the 1990s when networks began offering extra content, like exclusive mailed DVDs, to Emmy voters. Since then, FYC campaigns have become much more creative.
Netflix’s FYC campaign involved building “FYSee”, a real-life exhibition in Beverly Hills spanning multiple floors that featured life-size dioramas of sets from their shows, interactive photo-ops, and panelists from their hit streaming programs. The month-long installation was exclusively for academy voters that featured events every night. This type of experiential marketing can be especially effective because live events can often be more memorable than just a mailed DVD. These eye-catching FYC campaigns have also been great in adding extra buzz around the Emmys.
Cast of “Stranger Things” at Netflix’s FYSee exhibition via IndieWire
- Seize the day. Hosting an awards ceremony is a great PR and brand-building opportunity. It’s a chance to boost awareness of your company/organization and a great place to make connections in the industry! The team at the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences (ATAS) realized this and hosted the first Emmys only three years after their organization was founded.
- Start small. The first award ceremony was only for LA television networks. Only after a few successful years did the event expand to include TV programs from the entire nation. All huge events have to start somewhere! As an event marketer, focus on making your first event successful, even if they’re small. Maybe one day it’ll grow as big as the Emmys!
- Manage, manage, manage! - Going big is great, but only if you can manage it! Try to avoid massive feuds that end in splitting your entire organization. Utilize event management software, event software integrations, and hire the best event talent to make sure your events and organization run smoothly!
- Solidify your brand. Just like the name suggests, the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences (ATAS) created the Emmy Awards to celebrate arts AND science in TV and this is symbolized in the statuette. Hosting your own event puts a great deal of attention on you, so this is your chance to showcase how your brand is seen!
- Do more. After recognizing that the TV industry had a wide-range of areas, multiple area-specific Emmy award ceremonies were introduced. Planning an event series can be a great strategic move because year-round events will maintain your brand awareness and help your business grow constantly.
- Be ahead of the game. In 2008, the Emmy Awards allowed TV shows streamed online to be eligible for awards. At this point, Netflix was still shipping out DVDs! But almost 10 years later, Netflix now has 91 nominations in this year’s Primetime Emmy Awards, the second highest behind HBO. Always be sure to keep up with the advancements in your industry so you can stay one step ahead!
- Diversify. After the #OscarsSoWhite controversy in 2016 where no actors of color were nominated, entertainment award shows like the Oscars and Emmys have been put in the spotlight as influential leaders in pop culture. The Emmys are working hard to be more diverse with 25 people of color nominated in the 18 onscreen acting awards. It’s important to make sure your events are diverse and inclusive too!
- Take a stance. The annual Governors Ball, a huge seated dinner event after the award ceremony, brings in over 8,500 guests. This year, the dinner takes on the theme of sustainability. Food will be composted, carpet will be donated to Habitat for Humanity, and all lights will be energy-efficient. What is an important issue you can take a stance on at your event?
- Build the hype. The Emmy Award show isn’t the only event of the night or even month! There is a bunch of network-hosted receptions and parties before and after the ceremony. From the Comedy Central Nominee Soiree to the Audi Pre-Emmy Party to the HBO Post-Awards Reception, all of these extra events help to build and maintain hype for the Emmys. Having these smaller parties can help grow awareness for your main event.
- Work with others. The For Your Consideration (FYC) promotion period is a set of time the Emmys organization allots for networks to campaign for votes from Academy voters. These campaigns can benefit the Emmy Awards by bringing attention to the event -- especially when big companies like Netflix build an exclusive exhibition installment for voters! Be sure to work with event sponsors or partner up with other companies to make your event an even bigger success!