For 82 years, the accounting firm PwC (formerly PricewaterhouseCooper) has tallied the votes and handed out the envelopes at the Academy Awards. Although it’s not the company’s most lucrative contract, the Oscars are nevertheless one of the crown jewels of PwC’s clientele. Not only does the awards show give the firm a marketing boost, but it also acts as evidence for PwC’s ability to handle situations in the spotlight smoothly.
But as anyone who watched Sunday night’s broadcast knows, that sterling reputation took a big hit after the firm messed up the announcement for best picture. A PwC representative handed the wrong envelope to the final presenters of the evening, causing Hollywood legend Faye Dunaway to incorrectly declare that La La Land had won. As everyone involved in the film joyfully took to the stage, two PwC representatives joined them in order to deliver the bad news that Moonlight had in fact won. La La Land’s producers then accepted the quick turn of events and conceded the stage to the true winners.
While this surreal ending certainly made the show more exciting, it created a nightmare scenario for a quiet company like PwC. The firm immediately accepted responsibility for the incident but still faced an onslaught of criticism from both the media and online observers. If things had gone according to PwC’s plan, those commenters wouldn’t even know the name of the company in the first place. As one of the “Big Four” accounting firms, PwC deals primarily with other businesses and thus has little to gain by marketing to the general public. However, now the company has become associated with one of the most outrageous gaffes in entertainment history. PwC will likely deal with fallout from their mistake for years to come, potentially costing them future business as well as next year’s Academy Awards.
- Why do large accounting firms like PwC have little to gain by being known to the general public?
- Should the Academy hire a new accounting firm to handle next year’s Oscars?
Source: David Gelles and Sapna Maheshwari, “Oscars Mistake Casts Unwanted Spotlight on PwC,” The New York Times, February 27, 2017. Photo by Global Panorama.