Ellen DeGeneres Oscars selfie a marketing triumph for Samsung

DeGeneres' photo became most retweeted ever, but it was a bonus for event sponsor Samsung

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 04 March, 2014, 10:28pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 04 March, 2014, 10:28pm


Academy Awards host Ellen DeGeneres' celebrity-studded selfie from the most-watched Oscars telecast in a decade was a landmark social media moment at a time when online chat is boosting television ratings.

It's also a murky example of what is or isn't product placement in a hyper-marketed world.

Would the most retweeted photo ever have been shot by an iPhone if Samsung hadn't been a commercial sponsor of the Academy Awards?

An estimated 43 million watched 12 Years a Slave win the Oscar for best picture.

It was the most-watched Academy Awards since 2004, when Lord of the Rings: Return of the King was the best picture.

And it was the most popular entertainment event since the Friends finale that year. The Oscars are generally the most-watched US television event of the year after the Super Bowl.

Twitter said that about 14.7 million tweets mentioning the Oscars or prominent actors and films were sent out during the telecast, and Facebook said there were 25.4 million interactions about the show.

No social media moment was bigger than when DeGeneres briefly caused Twitter to crash after going into the audience and asking Bradley Cooper to take a picture with other stars crowding into the frame.

Meryl Streep, Jennifer Lawrence, Kevin Spacey, Julia Roberts, Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt also joined in, among others.

She asked viewers to help her set a retweet record, and they quickly complied. By yesterday afternoon, it had been retweeted more than three million times, shattering the previous record of 810,000 retweets for the photo of Barack and Michelle Obama hugging after the 2012 election.

Twitter was humming at 254,644 tweets per minute after DeGeneres' request, and the company said the crush disrupted service for 20 minutes.

DeGeneres handed a Samsung device to Cooper to take the selfie. Since the Oscars host's Twitter posts from backstage included shots from an iPhone, Samsung doesn't seem to be her usual smartphone of choice.

Samsung, however, was a big presence at the Oscars besides being a commercial sponsor. The company gave its phones to student presenters and encouraged them to tweet and post on Instagram with them. Dozens of Samsung phones, tablets and televisions were used to make a digital photo display in the backstage green room.

ABC said 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.

But it is a noticeably larger device than an iPhone. Spokeswoman Nicole Marostica said once producers decided to do the segment, it made more sense to use a Samsung product because the company was a sponsor.

"They were just lucky beneficiaries of the whole thing," Marostica said.

Use of the Samsung phone "is a wonderful example of product placement," in part because it seemed so natural, said Tim Calkins, marketing professor at the Kellogg School of Business at Northwestern University.