PR winners and losers at the Oscars

Looking back at the five hours of live coverage, we see that product placement can backfire, but a great story with an endearing human face will win the night.

The 2014 Academy Awards kicked off about 90 minutes before the show began, when the stars walked the red carpet.

As usual, Ryan Seacrest interviewed countless stars, fashion experts debated the height of dress slits, and Jennifer Lawrence took another “fall” that led to collective sighs from Americans appreciative of her goofy and free spirit. Say what you want about the believability of her tumble, but the actress knows how to give people what they want.

That said, millions around the world were given what they wanted by stars who exceeded expectations and achieved new fans everywhere, while other stars stumbled.

Here are my thoughts on the PR winners and losers of the 2014 Oscars:


1. Ellen DeGeneres

Ellen’s ability to blend an unorthodox delivery with her fantastic understanding of modern marketing and social media makes her the ideal host for a major award show in 2014.

As any great marketer or PR expert will tell you, timing is everything—and Ellen’s talent of landing just the right joke at just the right moment is one to appreciate.

Has an Oscars host ever had pizza delivered mid-event and handed it out to the front rows of audience members? Did I really see Brad Pitt handing out paper plates to his peers?

2. Jared Leto

Prior to the event, he was mocked on social media for his perfect, Olsen twin-style hair. Nobody is mocking Leto now, following his win of Best Supporting Actor and brilliant speech somehow touching on his single mother, Ukraine, Venezuela, and AIDS victims everywhere.

3. Twitter

Did Ellen DeGeneres break Twitter tonight? Not completely, but she did break the record for the most retweeted photo of all time. I can’t recall an event that dominated Twitter in quite the same way since President Obama announced the death of Osama Bin Laden on live television.

My entire feed was filled with #2014Oscars, #Bono, and dozens of other trending Oscars-focused tweets. When I logged in to Facebook to compare, I was surprised by the lack of messages pertaining to the event.

Now, as any professional marketer knows, comparing Facebook with Twitter is like comparing apples and oranges, but its strong and frequent use is still indicative of how popular Twitter has become.

4. Lupita Nyong’o and Barkhad Abdi

Both of their stories are absolutely brilliant and inspiring. A Mexican-born Kenyan, Nyong’o blew away moviegoers with her portrayal as Patsey in “12 Years a Slave.”

Abdi was literally a 1-in-700 shot; he saw an ad for the role in a Tom Hanks-led movie and auditioned. It was also recently revealed that he was only paid $65,000 for the movie, a mind-blowingly low number for someone nominated for an Oscar.

Both actors achieved a Cinderella story by making it to our television screens tonight, and they represent what an inspiring brand is. Look for both actors to gain momentum following this public launch.


1. Samsung

Ellen and her series of selfies featured A-listers such as Brad Pitt, Jennifer Lawrence, Bradley Cooper, Meryl Streep, Kevin Spacey, Liza Minnelli, and several others. Was it great product placement? Sure, but Ellen begging for retweets made the schtick look just a little forced.

You’d think that as one of the larger technology companies in the world, Samsung would realize that you can’t force something to go viral—well, unless it’s a mask from LeBron James.

2. The Wolf of Wall Street and Leonardo DiCaprio

DiCaprio just can’t win at the Oscars. He’s one of the greatest actors of our generation, and the man has yet to win an Oscar for any of his brilliant performances.

Although DiCaprio himself will not take any sort of public hit for the loss, “The Wolf of Wall Street” may not be remembered as one of the greatest of 2013.

3. ABC/The Oscars

Five hours of live coverage for one awards show? There weren’t nearly enough great speeches or awards being given out to warrant such length. Each year the same efforts and jokes are made with the intent to scale back the program. The backlash has crept onto social media, with multiple influencers talking about going to bed early and watching “The Walking Dead.”

As thousands of marketing and PR practitioners have pointed out, Americans’ attention spans are rapidly shortening. If the Academy doesn’t realize this sooner rather than later, it may get left behind.

Ronn Torossian is the founder and CEO of 5W Public Relations, one of the 25 largest privately held PR firms in the United States.

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Topics: PR

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