How One Comic Genius NewsJacked the Entire 2012 Oscars

Sasha Baron Cohen Grabs the Spotlight with Only a Beard, a Uniform, 2 Pretty ‘Security Guards’, and the ‘Ashes’ of Kim Il Jung.

Every year the American Academy Awards attracts tens of millions of viewers, no matter how boring the 3+ hour television event might be.  In 2012, the ceremony itself may have been even more irrelevant than usual, featuring movies that hardly anybody saw and hosted by an aging Billy Crystal most of whose jokes were as creaky as the ceremony itself.

But, never mind, because the real story of the  Oscars in 2012 was the brilliant Newsjacking of the event by Sasha Baron Cohen who grabbed zillions of dollars of free publicity for his upcoming movie, The Dictator (which will never win an Oscar, but who cares?).

Comic Genius Becomes PR Genius, Too

Cohen displayed not just comic genius, but PR genius well. He may not have read David Meerman Scott’s great book, Newsjacking, but he could well have been a case study. The basic concept is that, in these days of 24-hour news cycles and real-time public relations, marketing pros can  newsjack an event  by finding a way to do something that is highly newsworthy and is somehow connected to that event.

Thus, Sacha Baron Cohen made a huge stink about the Academy not permitting him to show up on the Red Carpet in full Dictator Regalia.  In fact, at one point, and they withdrew his invitation to attend the  Oscar ceremony at all. That goofy fight became newsworthy all by itself with an amazing amount of coverage that made the Academy  seem completely humorless. Finally, they caved in and permitted  the comic to appear on the red carpet as the make-believe Dictator.

Then, the big Red Carpet story: the Dictator, ever so carelessly, managed to spill the ‘ashes’ of the late North Korean dictator, Kim Il Jung,  all over the dinner jacket of host, Ryan Seacrest.  The entire incident lasted only about 3 minutes, But it may linger in Oscar infamy for eons.

Most observers miss the point when they ask whether this was a really funny thing to do–or simply a very rude maneuver. Funny or rude is beside the point. Newsjacking is the entire point.

As I write this, the morning after the Oscars, the news footage I’ve seen both online and on TV is all about Sasha Baron Cohen’s Dictator persona making ashes out of the Academy Awards. There is relatively little about the Oscar winners, their acceptance speeches, and the ceremony itself.

Sasha Baron Cohen is an exceptionally funny guy. Even better, for us content marketers, he is a Newsjacking genius.

Of course, it’s probably obvious but this blog post is my best attempt at doing Oscar-related Newsjacking myself.  Thanks, Sasha for giving me the opportunity.

If, by some miracle, you have not seen the memorable video of his Read Carpet, antics check it out below:


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