Under our very eyes, in a mere matter of weeks, a new marketing medium has been born. Its arrival was presaged in an apparently spontaneous moment when Oscar host Ellen DeGeneres handed her big white Samsung Android to Bradley Cooper and got him to take a selfie of a group of pals whose combined net worth tops that of the gross domestic product of Djibouti. Of course, little is spontaneous in the age of ubiquitous marketing. Samsung was a sponsor of the Oscar broadcast and had product placement in its contract.
And little was spontaneous at the White House this Tuesday when the World Champion Boston Red Sox paid a visit and slugger David Ortiz produced his Samsung to snap a shot of himself and President Obama. In the background, one of his teammates sing-songed, “Cha-ching!” Ortiz, a paid Samsung endorser, had done Ellen one better by capturing himself with the Ruler of the Free World.
The era of the selfie-razzi has arrived, and it is not likely to go away any time soon. The Oscar selfie was tweeted over 30 million times. The selfie Ortiz took with Obama was tweeted out within moments of its capture by Samsung. As I write this, no doubt there are an army of agents at MCA on the phone negotiating selfie rights for their clients.
Their clients, it appears, are only too happy to serve as their own paparazzi. Heck, the punked prez himself unofficially endorsed the practice after his own selfie with comely Danish P.M. Helle Thorning-Schmidt at Nelson Mandela’s memorial service. Celebs may gripe about paparazzi, but many cannot live without them. Some, like Alec Baldwin and Sean Penn, even lump up the occasional photog to win the front page of the Enquirer or the New York Post. Now, A-listers can snap away at their private lives with their soigné buddies and get paid for their troubles. Samsung has given them a way to cut paparazzi out of the picture.
Clearly, then, this is a medium with nothing but upside. It’s easy, it’s effective, and it’s lucrative—the celebrity triple play. But there’s a problem. Unless the celeb taking the shot is doing so on a live TV program or in front of the White House or such, he or she needs a “second shooter” to photograph him or her taking the selfie, so as to get the Samsung logo on his or her phone in the frame. That’s the money shot.
Therefore, I envision a selfie-razzi subclass forming among long-faded B-players. We’ll see tweets of Brad hoisting his Samsung over himself and Angelina in the hot tub, captured by Erik Estrada; Jay-Z and Beyonce in their private helicopter shot by Vanilla Ice; Harry Reid and Marco Rubio at the rifle range snapped by Jimmy Carter.
The problem with this new marketing medium is that it’s limited to a few manufacturers of cell phones. But, if it takes off like I think it will, it’s only a matter of time before we’ll see phones shaped like Ford Fusions, Snickers bars, and Obamacare policies.