Paid and Earned Media Unite for Award-Winning Oscars Performance

So, TV crashed Twitter last night. Does that put the debate about the relative power of paid versus social media to rest?

OK, not really. It’s more of an illustration of how entertainment and paid media are both becoming entwined.

Academy Awards broadcast host Ellen DeGeneres’ selfie with 12 of Hollywood’s A-list celebrities became the most-tweeted photo ever – and briefly took down the #Oscars Twitter hashtag, not Twitter itself – by harnessing the old-fashioned power of destination TV. @TheEllenShow posted the tweet during the show, quickly garnering more than 1,300,000 retweets in just minutes (it is now almost to 3 million retweets).

Who won in this scenario?

In part thanks to the record-breaking tweet, Samsung was the big brand winner overall, according to Kontera, a big-data content marketing platform. Kontera looked at online brand consumption and social media during Oscars 2014 and saw more than 40,000 social mentions throughout the event. Showing the power of paid media, most consumption and social conversation peaks happened during its commercials.

The peak of peaks was during the selfie itself, when consumption of the Samsung brand multiplied by 2,700 percent and Samsung mentions topped 900 per minute. It’s notable that no mention was made of Samsung during the photo opportunity, but the camera was the closest thing to the media’s cameras.


A Samsung spokesperson said Ellen’s Oscar selfie moment was not part of the paid deal. In an email, she said, “While we were a sponsor of the Oscars and had an integration with ABC, we were delighted to see Ellen organically incorporate the device into the selfie moment that had everyone talking. A great surprise for everyone, she captured something that nobody expected.”

In honor of that, Samsung will donate $1.5 million to each of Ellen’s charities, St. Jude’s and The Humane Society.

Kontera’s analysis parsed Oscar-related brand consumption separately from each brand’s typical online and social media consumption to isolate the Oscar effect. It found that overall, Samsung had the strongest performance.

But it could have done much better, according to Chris Bowler, group vice president of social media for Razorfish, who kept a close eye on the Twitterverse and other social media last night. “Arguably, we could have seen more here from a Twitter marketing perspective,” he says. For example, Ellen could have also tweeted a specific mention.

Bowler also suggests that the selfie itself could have been lightly branded, for example with a watermark saying something like, “Photo taken on a Samsung Galaxy Note 3.” Samsung could have promoted its own branded hashtag – and why weren’t Samsung’s own Twitter handles more active? “I saw only one retweet of someone else’s post from Samsung USA @Samsungtweets and I didn’t see anything from @SamsungMobile. It seems like Samsung could have activated their social channels even more and it was a missed opportunity. This overall speaks to the lack of readiness by some brands to execute real-time marketing across the board,” he says.

And then there were those tweets Ellen did from backstage – with her personal iPhone. Ouch!

According to Mauricio Aguayo, director of digital strategy at Click 3X, Samsung probably could have asked Ellen to use one of its phones even backstage during the event. “It could have been part of the contract. Any brand can have that conversation and agree on the terms of how to promote themselves and prevent that from happening – if they knew that Twitter posts the device a tweet comes from.”

Says Rachel Caggiano, Ogilvy’s North American head of content, “You want sponsorships to come off as flawless, seamless, and really authentic. This seemed a little forced.” Ideally, she says, it should have seemed like Ellen really loves the Samsung phone, giving consumers the idea, “I’m going to buy it because I love Ellen.” Caggiano adds, “If the sponsorship doesn’t come through like the celebrity is truly endorsing [the product], I don’t know how well it works.”

And then there’s Snickers’ suggestion that attendees who didn’t get in on the pizza should eat a candy bar.

At every live event, we’re starting to see brands trying to force it a little too much. “Everyone is looking for their ‘Oreo moment,'” Caggiano says. When Oreo live-tweeted during the Super Bowl, “it was novel and surprising and right on time. Now, there’s an over-indulgence.”

Aguayo contrasts Snickers with Arby’s, which had good interplay with Pharrell over his hat. The fast-food company had good-naturedly ribbed the singer about the weird hat he wore to the Grammys, which looks like the Arby’s logo. @Arbys tweeted, “‘Hey @Pharrell, can we have our hat back?” When Pharrell auctioned it for charity on eBay, Arby’s bought it.

“That had thousands of engagements,” he notes. “Because the engagement between Arby’s and Pharrell was so genuine, and it connected with charity, it’s almost like a happy ending to the story.”

While @Snickers’ suggestion itself didn’t get much love, the brand did, thanks to its TV spot.

Maybe the real winner in all this is Twitter, Caggiano says. Its own earned media keeps on coming – including this story.

Here’s Kontera’s ranking of the top brands, indexed against top performer Samsung:


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