Rolex speaks volumes without saying a word in its Oscar spot

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The marketer returns to the Academy Awards with a montage celebrating the brand and Hollywood's interwined history

During this year’s Academy Awards, Rolex went literally behind the scenes by sponsoring the show’s green room for the second consecutive year. It also advertised during a commercial break. But the brand didn’t say much. Instead, it let Hollywood’s A-listers do the talking.

In a 60-second film titled "Celebrating Cinema," Rolex displays a montage of movie clips including Dennis Hopper in "Speed," Guy Pearce in "LA Confidential," Paul Newman, for whom a Rolex was named (The Paul Newman Daytona), and others—all wearing Rolexes. The brand doesn't hock product features. In fact, the only words Rolex communicates are "It doesn’t just tell time. It tells history," which appear, superimposed on a white screen, at the end.

"A Rolex is not only a beautiful watch and a masterpiece of engineering, it's very tough. It's a watch that you can take into any environment and which can stand up to the pressure," said Oscar-winning director James Cameron in a press release about the brand's Academy Awards sponsorship. "So, what you're saying subliminally to the audience is: that character can take the pressure, too; he or she has what it takes."

Created in-house at the Rolex headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland, the spot features so many examples of Rolexes in film, one could easily think this was an homage to a successful product placement strategy. But Rolex has never paid to have its watches featured in movies. In fact, James Bond wears a Rolex in Ian Fleming’s books, but on screen, Daniel Craig sports an Omega because that brand paid for the story integration.   

But it wasn't the brand's successful marketing that had Oscar watchers buzzing on Sunday. Many took to Twitter to express their disappointment that Rolex was able to get a clip of the late actor Bill Paxton in its film but the Oscars could not for its "In Memoriam" montage. 

Paxton notwithstanding, some viewers appreciated a different late actor wearing a more modest timepiece.