The Dirty Little Secret About Ellen’s Oscar Selfie

You know, this one:

It was a wacky, seemingly spontaneous moment in which Ellen and a bunch of stars took a selfie, and then she urged people to make it the most retweeted photo ever.

And they did! I think it got almost 3 million retweets. That’s the only reason I even know about: it was all over Twitter.

Yeah, that was totally a bought-and-paid-for ad by Samsung for the Galaxy Note 3. And if you retweeted or shared it, you were doing a little unpaid marketing for Samsung. Congratulations!

Samsung spent about $20 million in a promotional deal with ABC, which included featuring the device during the broadcast. They even had their people at the rehearsals teaching Ellen how to use it. It worked, too: Samsung was being mentioned 900 times a minute on Twitter during the broadcast.

Did the stars in the photograph even know they were part of some tacky product placement stunt? If they did, would they have cared?

Try to keep this image in mind next time you hear some celebrity blathering on about freedom of expression or artistic integrity. In the end, entertainment is always about the almighty dollar. That’s not a problem, mind you: I write for a living and expect to be paid. But the pretense that it’s All About The Craft wears thin.

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About Thomas L. McDonald

Thomas L. McDonald writes about technology, theology, history, games, and shiny things. Details of his rather uneventful life as a professional writer and magazine editor can be found in the About tab.

  • victor

    Not surprising in the least and not even shocking anymore. I heard the pizza delivery man (again, I only know about it because of Twitter) was tipped $1,000 for the delivery, but I have to imagine the stunt was worth at least 1-2,000 times that to ABC.

  • Maggie Goff

    I am getting so jaded. Not really. I like hanging around with all of you guys at Patheos. Keeps my faith in the good guys going.

  • MeanLizzie

    Actually, I really hope those celebs get nice big gift baskets from Samsung, even though they don’t need it — b/c the company benefited from their presence and participation in what they seemed to think was a fun stunt. They should get something.

  • Dan O’Connor

    Don’t be so easy on them. What they did was extremely deceptive, and let us hope it is a sign for the masses to stop looking up to these ridiculous celebrities.

  • meunke

    Oh please, give me a break.

    Everything about that event, ALL OF IT, is fake and for promotions. Even the clothes on their backs? Yeah, guess what, designers PAY THROUGH THE NOSE just to have Brad Pill wear that jacket, or have ellen wear, whatever that is she’s wearing. EVERYTHING is bought and paid for with advertising at these silly

    The only thing that is ridiculous is that it seems that some of you actually may have thought it was a genuine ‘moment’.

    “Did the stars in the photograph even know they were part of some tacky
    product placement stunt? If they did, would they have cared?”
    - Please, they may be shallow people, but they are not THAT stupid. They
    know (and get paid) to be used as marketing tools. Further, it’s
    promotion for them as well.

    Seriously, do NONE of you who are expressing some kind of sadness over this understand how marketing works?

    I’m guessing that those of you who saw movies like World War Z must think it was just a total coincidence that Brad Pitts’ character stops and drinks… a Pepsi. Amiright?

  • Thomas L. McDonald

    Score for expressing contempt: 10.0
    Score for careful reading of the post you’re commenting on: 3.9
    Score for showing respect for others: 0.0

    There’s no indication at all that everyone in the photo knew it was product placement. (And thank you for pointing out the blindly obvious about product placement. None of us had ever heard of it before. You have enlightened us!) Product placement usually benefits the person involved with the placement. “Did it benefit these particular people and were they aware of it at that particular moment?” was the question.

    If you want to stay out of the spam filter, turn your “snot” dial back next time you comment, and don’t assume you’re the smartest little boy in the class. You’re probably not.

  • meunke

    “There’s no indication at all that everyone in the photo knew it was product placement.”
    - Except for the fact of that’s who they are, and advertising (both for products and people) is what those events are all about. So yes, There is PLENTY of indication that they knew. They know pictures taken of them are used for publicity and marketing. What else do you think public pictures are taken of them for?

    “”Did it benefit these particular people”
    - You say you know about advertising, and then you ask this question? You say “In the end, entertainment is always about the almighty dollar” and you ask that question? Let me rephrase it:

    Did these A and B list celebrities, whose careers depend on being constantly pushed into the public’s eye, some who, when their publicity tanks, even have a degrading habit of ‘accidentally leaking’ pornography of themselves in order to gain publicity, who will even PAY for fawning articles about them, will these people have any benefit from their picture being flashed and spread to MILLIONS of people, be talked about by those millions of people, all for no cost whatsoever to themselves?

    I don’t know, Thomas, what do you think? I think it would be hard to PAY to get advertising that good.

    It’s a type of viral social marketing. And it’s genius. The only thing that surprises me is that it was Samsung and not Apple who did it.

    And they didn’t know it was a publicity stunt? At an event that is nothing more than a glorified, MASSIVE publicity stunt, where everything from clothes, commercials and even the food they eat is bought and paid advertising, they somehow couldn’t possibly know that their likeness was going to be used for product/personal promotion? I don’t see how that’s likely.

  • Thomas L. McDonald

    Thank you for sharing. I can see you put a lot of thought into this. Way, way too much thought.

  • meunke

    Not really. Advertising is one of the few topics that I have a TON of knowledge on, as my home business is based on it. I have to keep track of some pop trends, which unfortunately means that even though I don’t have to watch entire events like this, I have to keep aware of what’s happening in them.