RamKrishna Raja
Mar 10, 2014

Did Samsung really win at the Oscars after the epic #selfie?

Did Samsung really get its money's worth out of the Oscars? RamKrishna Raja crunches the numbers.

RamKrishna Raja
RamKrishna Raja

The Oscars last Sunday were a delight to watch. After a recent spate of so-so hosts, Ellen DeGeneres truly shined. From a marketer’s perspective, the biggest ‘winner’ was Samsung, given the ‘Take the Twitterverse down’ + mother of all #selfies  + current world ‘retweet’ record holder, which had the whole world gawking at their smartphones.  

Pundits around the world were swift to congratulate Samsung for its marketing brilliance. But is it really true? Or are we just euphoric and not seeing it for what it really is? I wanted to find out. We as marketers, for good or bad, have descended into an era of momentary marketing wins that are all about ‘awareness hijacking’ as opposed to the good old ‘awareness nurturing’.  The upside: momentary stardom. The downside: being forgotten as fast.

Samsung paid a reported $20 million for the spots and to get its device in the hands of Ellen to have millions of eyeballs ‘believe’ that the Samsung Galaxy Note 3 is her preferred personal device to take cool selfies of hot celebs. That she reverted back to her good-old iPhone the moment she went backstage is another issue altogether, but so far so good. 

What happened after the tweet was entirely due to the contents of the selfie and was obviously device or platform agnostic. The ‘awareness hijack’ that followed had very little to do with Samsung. The same thing would have happened if it were a Nokia, Oppo, Micromax, Xiomi or any no-name Chinese device with big enough pockets to spend (which they soon will).  

So why declare Samsung a winner? ‘Eyeballs’, you say? Hmm…let’s analyze that.

As a digital marketer, I take sheepish pride in joyfully elbowing my ‘legacy’ colleagues (you know, the ‘old media’ guys) when it comes to showcasing digital’s inherent advantage of tracking results that are tangible and not vague, like eyeballs = brand success. (What are we, still in 1999?)

Having become accustomed to living in world defined by Google as the de-facto barometer of audience consciousness (if you are not, I am sorry you are late…but welcome nevertheless), in theory, the  $20 million or so that Samsung spent and the resulting selfie must have given it a nominal if not giant surge in search stats. You would expect that either later that night (March 2) or the day after (March 3), a sizeable fraction of those millions of eyeballs who saw the Samsung Galaxy Note 3 would have been interested in Samsung or Galaxy or Samsung Galaxy or Samsung Galaxy Note 3 maybe?

Here is where the rubber meets the road. As I write it’s been four days since the Oscars, and while the now-famous selfie has long gone buried in that constant social feed pit of yours, Google’s trend numbers are out for the time frame we are concerned about. Let’s delve in. Below are the US search trends for the past 30 days for the following keywords till March 3 (the day after the Oscars). The tip of the line is EOD March 3.

Ellen DeGeneres

Verdict: Huge Win. What you see below is basically a hockey stick increase in awareness and interest. The US went from ‘ellen’ to ‘ELLEN’!


Verdict: Slight loss. The result of the ‘awareness hijack’ was much less promising than the ‘awareness nurtured’ bump the brand gained during the Mobile World Congress  (MWC) the previous week. The brand actually went down the day after the Oscars.

Samsung Galaxy

Verdict: Slight loss. The same story continues, but the MWC-related ‘organic’ bump is more pronounced.

Samsung Galaxy Note 3

Verdict: Same as above. Remember, this is the device that was product-placed. 


Verdict: Huge win. Hockey stick all the way. This is expected.

Oscars Pizza

Verdict: Huge win!  Even Oscars Pizza was a hit! I hope you are getting the drift. I am sure Big Mama’s pizza in LA did not pay $20 million for this!  This was not expected. AKA…organic ‘awareness resonance’.

Ideally, Samsung’s curves should have pointed at a different direction. It perplexes me why we still value big-spending brands who put little thought into the brand’s relevance into a particular product placement or buy. How did the device add ‘unique’ value to Ellen/Oscars/Broadcast etc.?  Where is the story?  Anyone with $20 million can do what Samsung did. Big deal.

Does this mean that Samsung lost? No. It is we. We marketers who immediately extrapolated the organic, Ellen-induced, celeb-driven Twitter virality and jumped into a ‘Samsung win’ conclusion.

This kind of analysis feeds on brand egos and does not serve brands in helping them innovate. It actually dumbs them down. It does not bring to light the fact that a $20 million ad spend + product placement does not necessarily resonate as much as they would like in the world…well at least in the digital world. 

Ok, now I am resting my crazy analytical mind and heading to play Candy Crush Saga on my new Samsung Galaxy Note 3 while I enjoy my last few weeks of my sabbatical. Believe me, it’s a pretty cool phone…eh..tablet..eh phablet…..eh..tabhone…

RamKrishna Raja is a digital marketer who is on sabbatical but can’t really unplug


Campaign Asia

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