In an otherwise unsurprising, unremarkable, at best workmanlike Academy Award presentation, host Ellen DeGeneres made news by breaking Twitter. Her star-studded selfie made in the audience included Meryl Streep, Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, Jared Leto, Brad Pitt and others. Inviting the hundreds of millions watching to set a retweet record, DeGeneres got that and more. The image drew a record 1.3 million retweets in under an hour, far surpassing the 780,000 retweets of President Obama's victory image made upon winning the 2012 Presidential election.
But on the way to making the record, the image helped make the #Oscars hashtag fail for many users trying to access it. A Twitter failure notice was all most second-screeners saw for over a minute. DeGeneres announced on air that the selfie had established a record and that it had “broken” Twitter.
In fact, Twitter was otherwise fine. It was just the hashtag that produced an error message. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences quickly quipped a Twitter post and ran a screen grab of the error message: “Sorry, our bad.”
Ellen's selfie was among the few interesting uses of Twitter during this year's ceremony. Unlike the exhaustively hijacked Super Bowl, a relative few brand marketers tried to nudge their way into the #Oscars hashtag. Ceremony sponsor Samsung had promoted Tweets supporting its ubiquitous on-air presence. The Snickers brand leveraged the hashtag to distribute a commercial featuring Godzilla. Lipton Tea supported a TV commercial featuring The Muppets, as did American Express and its commercial featuring Tina Fey. T-Mobile broadcast a Samsung Galaxy contest. And according to AdWeek, a number of sponsors purchased related hashtags associated with specific celebrities.
Second-screen efforts overall for this year's Oscars were notably muted. ABC did not issue a dedicated Oscar app, as it has in recent years. Instead, the backstage coverage and multi-feed activity was carried by the network's standard Watch ABC streaming app and ABC.com Web site. Both delivered error and failure messages when we tried accessing the feeds early in the broadcast, however.