It was the kind of mistake that, once you hear how it happened, you almost can’t help wondering how it doesn’t happen all the time.
With two reps for the consulting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers being put in charge of two complete sets of 24 envelopes at two different access points to the stage — and those envelopes containing the names of the Oscar winners being handed to presenters just before they go to the podium — it seems almost inevitable that a wrong envelope might find its way into the mix.
And that’s what happened Sunday night, just as the most important moment of the Academy Awards was about to happen, with Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway unlucky enough to have been chosen as the Best Picture presenters.
After Beatty struggled to figure out what to do when he noticed the wrong card in the envelope, Dunaway — thinking Beatty was just goofing around — glanced at the card and blurted out “La La Land.” The card had the name of the movie on it along with that of Emma Stone, the Best Actress winner.
The actual Best Picture winner, as you may have heard by now, was “Moonlight.”
PricewaterhouseCoopers took the blame for the mess, issuing a statement apologizing for the incident. Here’s the complete statement from PwC:
“We sincerely apologize to ‘Moonlight,’ ‘La La Land,’ Warren Beatty, Faye Dunaway, and Oscar viewers for the error that was made during the award announcement for Best Picture. The presenters had mistakenly been given the wrong category envelope and when discovered, was immediately corrected. We are currently investigating how this could have happened, and deeply regret that this occurred.
“We appreciate the grace with which the nominees, the Academy, ABC, and Jimmy Kimmel handled the situation.”
The AP reports that PwC may be dealing with more than regret over the matter. After 82 years handling the balloting for the Academy Awards, the London-based firm’s reputation was seen by many as unassailable.
“Now its hard-won image as a dependable partner is under threat,” the AP reports.
The report quotes London branding specialist Nigel Currie calling the error “as bad a mess-up as you could imagine.”
Currie adds: “They had a pretty simple job to do and messed it up spectacularly. They will be in deep crisis talks on how to deal with it.”
The AP notes: “Crisis managers say PwC has no other option than to front-up immediately and explain exactly what happened to contain the damage to its reputation and brand and plot a way forward where there’s no repeat.”
Adds Jeremy Robinson-Leon of the New York-based public relations firm Group Gordon: “There will certainly have to be accounting for this error. The onus will be on PwC, assuming they stay as partners, to institute controls to ensure this doesn’t happen again.”