Awards ceremony broadcasts may have been changed forever at last night’s Oscars when Ellen DeGeneres took a selfie of herself and a dozen A-listers in the theater. She broke the record for most retweets – 3 million-plus and counting — causing a brief service issue with Twitter. “We just broke Twitter,” DeGeneres announced during ABC’s broadcast of the Oscars after word got out.
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“The envelope please … to @TheEllenShow — this is now the most retweeted tweet with over 1 million RTs. Congrats!” chimed in Twitter when DeGeneres’ selfie hit that retweeting threshold. (According to Poptip, a platform that analyzes and synthesizes social conversation in real time, among last night’s Oscar highlights, four of the top 15 phrases about the Oscars were about the Samsung selfie.)
“Eureka!” shouted network executives — in their heads, anyway — because they’re always on the prowl for ways to keep viewers engaged in the orgies of statuette dispensing and studio-chief-thanking that, just a few years back, seemed headed toward the TV Endangered List, right next to variety shows and beauty pageants. Social media has re-energized the awards ceremonies once dismissed as too long, too boring, too self-serving, says Horizon Media SVP Research Brad Adgate, noting the recent ratings growth at the Grammys and the Golden Globes, and the 10-year viewing high achieved by Sunday’s Oscars. Adgate forecast that DeGeneres would be asked back to host the Academy Awards next year based on those ratings and Sunday’s selfie retweet record. “It was a social media moment. It will go down with the Oreo cookies in the Super Bowl moment – social media intertwined with a live media event, ” he said, referencing Oreos’ “you can still dunk in the dark” tweet during the 2013 Super Bowl blackout.
Samsung was one of the big advertisers in last night’s Academy Awards where ads reportedly went for about $1.8 million a pop, making it the second-most-expensive ad real estate on TV after the Super Bowl. “This was a great added value for their investment,” Adgate said, noting advertisers like the Oscars because it has a high level of live viewing which usually means higher levels of ad watching.
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The celeb-studded Samsung selfie wasn’t the only product to get plugged by DeGeneres in the trophy show. Los Angeles-based Big Mama’s & Papa’s Pizzeria cashed in when she “ordered” pizza for hungry A-listers, which was delivered and doled out to nominated stars including 12 Years A Slave producer Brad Pitt, August: Osage County stars Julia Roberts and Meryl Streep, and American Hustle’s Jennifer Lawrence and Christian Bale. Dallas Buyers Club’s Jared Leto took a slice for his mom. PepsiCo, which replaced Coca-Cola as the exclusive soft-drink sponsor at this year’s Oscars, can’t have been happy about the Coke logos seen on the three pizza boxes by an average of 43 million viewers. (Coca-Cola had been the broadcast’s soft drink sponsor since 2006 but sat out this year).
Vivienne Westwood’s “Mountain” hat famously worn by Pharrell Williams at this year’s Grammys made two cameos during the Oscars — once when he performed nominated tune “Happy” from the movie Despicable Me 2, and again when DeGeneres passed the hat to pay for the pizzas. (Actually we’re talking about three different “Mountain” hats — two of them used during Sunday’s Oscarcast, and the one seen on Pharrell’s head at the Grammys, during which Arby’s tweeted it wanted its hat back. Arby’s wound up shelling out more than $44,000 to “get it back” when Pharrell auctioned it off on eBay for charity — which, considering the cost of a 30-second spot at the Grammys, was a bargain.) Even the Clarins lip balm that Lupita Nyong’o tossed into the hat became the subject of much tweeting last night and this morning, as beauty bloggers and department stores that carry Clarins retweeted the moment.
“I don’t see any reason why, in years ahead, brands can’t leverage that and the Academy and ABC can’t make money off that,” Adgate predicted. “There’s value there.”
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It will be harder for Samsung to achieve the same kind of moment at next year’s Oscars, says Jeff Adelson-Yan, President and Co-founder of digital marketing firm Levelwing. Last night’s celebrity selfie “seemed very unscripted, even though a lot of it was planned and Samsung had big dollars on the line for this.” But now viewers, who don’t trust advertising, “understand what it is — it now feels less authentic moving forward,” he said. “Part of the evolution” of this kind of advertising is that consumers get wiser and become more skeptical as to whether something is a “natural occurrence” or product placement. On the other hand, becoming more subtle should not be too hard — you couldn’t get much less subtle than DeGeneres was on Sunday when she broke away from her opening monologue to take her first Samsung selfie, reacting to the brightness of the stars in the theater.
“I’m going to be tweeting through the night … and I realized that what I’m looking at is incredible,” she explained, adding, “If you don’t mind I’m going to take a picture of me looking at you…#Oscars, #blessed – tweet it out.”
The result of that selfie, unfortunately for Samsung, was a blurry mess.