Exponential: 'Birdman' will be Oscar choice

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Firm crunches the numbers and predicts "Birdman" will take the prize for Best Picture

And old white men will make it. That's Exponential's call, and the data-driven ad network's picked the last two Best Picture winners.

It makes sense. Old white men with unjustifiably high opinions of themselves would not be able to resist bestowing the entertainment industry's most hallowed award on an aging and insecure superhero. "Birdman" will soar at the Academy Awards on Sunday night.

That's the call of Exponential, a data-driven ad network that successfully predicted the last two Best Picture winners, "12 Years a Slave" and "Argo." Based on an exhaustive, months-long analysis, Birdman, starring white, 60-something Michael Keaton (above) as a former top box office superhero making his last hurrah, will walk away with the top prize on Sunday. Imitation Game was the second choice of the segment studied by Exponential.

The ad network, which serves ads for clients based on data collected about thematic propensities of online audiences, got its start as an Oscar handicapper a few years ago when the Academy released demographic information on its voters. The profile of the voting franchisees, it turned out, was indiscernible from the membership rolls of elite country clubs in the Hamptons and Beverly Hills, a fact that got lots of recent attention when Selma turned up lacking in nominations. They are 94% Caucasian, 77% male, and have a median age of 62.

"That was the last piece of the puzzle we needed to make these predictions," said Bryan Melmed, VP of Insights Services at Exponential. "We developed a profile of the Academy voter — what cars they might drive, what their discretionary spend was — to show us what they have in common. Once we hit the magic number of 30,000, we compare with profiles of people who are most passionate about the Oscars."

Folks within the profile who spent a lot of time online reading about or sharing about "Birdman," Exponential found, had a 2,000% higher propensity to be involved in the film industry, a 700% propensity to live in Los Angeles, and a 500% propensity to be involved in film editing. "Imitation Game" fans also put up big numbers for residency in L.A., but were slightly less likely to work in the movies.

Out of the running for the Best Picture statuette, Exponential figured, were "The Grand Budapest Hotel" and "The Theory of Everything." Exponential began tracking more than 20 films it deemed likely to be nominees in the spring, so popular films released at the end of the year like "American Sniper" could be wild cards in its system.

"'American Sniper' had a burst of enthusiasm at the end of the process, so we made adjustments to give it a fair assessment," Melmed said. Exponential's analysts, however, didn't find data to show that the flurry of interest would be enough to put the Bradley Cooper vehicle over the top.

Exponential doesn't rate any of the actor categories, because it's too hard to make the early calls on whom to start following early in the process. But, if the company's sterling handicapping record holds true this year, an old white actor who was the original movie Batman should have a big smile on his face when Best Picture is announced this Sunday.

This article first appeared on dmnews.com.