Oh the Oscars, an annual event that not only filmmakers, actors, and fans look forward to; but also companies looking to capitalize on its viewership’s potential impact on advertising success. During a large-scale event such as this, it is known to be an opportune time for companies to produce memorable ads to be aired during the commercials – which is a very costly marketing strategy. But what about during the show? Is it possible that companies can advertise outside of the 30 second window of air-time allotted to them? Samsung proved it could be done, but how did it do it?
For anyone who watched the Oscars this year, you might remember the selfie (or should I say “groupie”?) host Ellen DeGeneres tweeted of herself, Bradley Cooper, Brad Pitt, Julia Roberts, Meryl Streep, Jennifer Lawrence, Jared Leto, Angelina Jolie and Lupita Nyong’o, to just name some of its members. Was this just one of Ellen’s humorous skits? Was it purely for the show, or was there an alternate motive behind that picture? The answer: it was in fact a (potentially-unintentional) part of an estimated $20 million marketing campaign. According to the Los Angeles Times, we learn that Samsung used the Oscars to promote its new line of products, “including the Galaxy Note Pro Tablet, the Galaxy S5 phone, the Gear 2 smartwatch and a curved ultra-high-definition television. “
The accounts of what actually happened, and who knew what, vary around the Internet. But for our purposes, we’re focused on the PR implications for The Oscars and Samsung. According to The Huffington Post, “Samsung did not pay specifically for use of the camera in DeGeneres’ selfie segment and the company wasn’t explicitly named on the air as the stunt unfolded.” The Huffington Post continues, “Spokeswoman Nicole Marostica said once producers decided to do the segment, it made more sense to use a Samsung product because the company was an Oscars sponsor. ‘They were just lucky beneficiaries of the whole thing,’” Marostica said.
Regardless of how a Samsung phone came to take the selfie, the Twitter picture was such an enormous hit that according to the Huffington Post, Ellen had “orchestrated the most famous selfie ever.” The tweet also crashed Twitter’s service temporarily, and surpassed the previous record of President Obama’s ‘four more years’ tweet, “as fans retweeted it more than 700,000 times in the first half hour alone,” according to the Los Angeles Times.
“We crashed and broke Twitter,” DeGeneres told the crowd after taking the selfie. “We made history.”
The debate of whether this was a great campaign or not comes into play because Ellen never actually mentioned the name Samsung; most watching the Oscars at home assumed this little stunt was all improv – made up on the spot. It appears that Samsung was really just in the right place at the right time (or was the right sponsor at the right time). The Samsung phone just happened to be the most logical choice for Ellen to use to take the most famous selfie in history.
As a result, Samsung said that because the selfie wasn’t planned that it would donate $3 million to two charities picked by DeGeneres as a thank you. Let’ talk about why all of this worked for Samsung:
- Knowing Where to Be: Samsung knew The Oscars is a big event, similar to the Super Bowl; it is a time where companies compete to have ads placed during commercials because of the high volume of viewership.
- Spending Wisely: Spending your communications budget most effectively for your organization is important. Samsung saw an opportunity to be a sponsor for The Oscars, spending a large amount of money, but obviously spending it wisely knowing The Oscars has a good reputation. A lot of organizations will choose a mix of paid advertisements and sponsorships, along with earned media and public relations tactics.
- Giving Back: Samsung was happy to receive the immense Twitter popularity its Galaxy Note 3 captured, but was honest about it not having been a previously planned strategy prior to the show. It made a good decision to donate money to charity to show its gratitude.
Samsung was successful because it took credit where it was appropriate, and also gave credit where it was deserved. Make sure to check in next week to see how Volvo Trucks created an impressive Facebook and YouTube campaign and what we can learn from it.