Think Ellen’s Oscar selfie was just a spontaneous pic of her with her favourite gorgeous friends? Think again.

If you’ve worked in advertising for more than a couple months you’ve probably been served a two-headed brief – the formal one from your client that speaks of target audiences and measured successes, and the one from your agency’s Creative Director, CEO or whoever has decided that the company needs creative ideas that utilize the latest, trending platform – be it Snapchat, Chat Roulette (remember the good old days?) or, in the Oscars’ case, Twitter.

The Oscars’ creative team was served their own two-headed brief of promoting their major sponsor’s latest smartphone and making the oft-perceived-stodgy Oscars more relevant by generating some social buzz. Enter the Ellen Celebrity Oscar Selfie – a debatably spontaneous selfie of Ellen Degeneres with of handful of Hollywood’s hottest stars which Ellen encouraged the world to retweet. The couch bound throngs responded by breaking the ‘Most Retweeted Photo Ever’ record, temporarily shutting down Twitter in the process.

The retweet record created a nicely packaged-story for the pundits, with a large part of that story revolving around the device used to take the selfie. But every good story has a twist. In this case it was the fact that Ellen, or more accurately her publicists, used iPhones to post to Twitter backstage. A classic example of a paid media win vs an earned media win. The conspiracy theorist in me believes somewhere out there is a marketing genius who made this happen for Apple. Regardless, I imagined both Oprah and Alicia Keys watching from their mansions, shaking their heads.

Fun fact: In 2007 Ellen hosted the Oscars and asked Steven Spielberg to take a picture of her with Clint Eastwood saying she wanted to post it on – wait for it – Myspace. No recollection of the device used.


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