Samsung’s Oscar Product Placement: Is All PR Good PR?

This post is by Blake Snelling from March Communications

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Whether or not you watched the Oscars on Sunday, by now you’ve probably seen Ellen DeGeneres’ Twitter-crashing, record-breaking Oscars selfie, taken with Samsung’s new Galaxy S5 smartphone.

It seemed like every time Ellen was onstage during the awards ceremony, she was wielding the massive Galaxy S5, taking selfies and live-tweeting while hosting the show. A celebrity endorsement is great PR. A celebrity using the product in front of millions of people? Even better.

In their latest ad campaign, Samsung advertised their newest phone model through the Oscars almost seamlessly. Almost.


Backstage Blunder

Unfortunately for Samsung, the whole thing seemed a bit forced after the first few photos Ellen live-tweeted using the phone. The blurry, discolored results of almost all Ellen’s S5 photos (aside from the viral selfie) didn’t exactly generate the kind of PR for the S5 that Samsung probably hoped it would. Especially in comparison to some of the photos Ellen tweeted backstage with her personal iPhone.

The difference is almost embarrassing. Since Samsung failed to take into account the use of personal smartphones backstage at the Oscars, they ended up dealing with the consequences of several unintentional comparisons to their biggest competitor, Apple.

Slate sums the situation up well: “Samsung shelled out big money to sponsor the Oscars and still managed to come out of the event looking like the brand that people only use when they’re forced to.”

Despite this law of unintended consequences, Samsung showed that with a bit of clever strategizing, product placement can definitely work more effectively and more memorably than most traditional advertising, as long as brands remember to cover all their bases.

Samsung’s unique strategy, in collaboration with Ellen’s comical acts onstage, gained a lot more interest than a traditional smartphone ad would’ve.

According to USA Today, the viral selfie Ellen tweeted boosted consumer “consumption” of the Samsung name by 27 times, with Samsung mentions topping 900 per minute during the stunt.

Combined with the creative meme-based content posted by Ellen through selfies and social sharing, Samsung was able to recover from iPhone photos taken at the Oscars by being a part of the most retweeted photo in the history of Twitter, as well as one of the most seamless product placement ad campaigns in recent years.

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