Sacha Baron Cohen Ashes Seacrest and the Social Media World Goes Viral

For a moment, everyone was wondering what comedian Sacha Baron Cohen would do at the Academy Awards. Surrounded by two voluptuous bodyguards and in dictator-regalia, Cohen, in character as Admiral General Aladeen for his upcoming movie “The Dictator”, poured the “ashes” of deceased dictator Kim Jong-Il over American Pretty Boy Ryan Seacrest. As viewers gaped in awe and waited to see the reaction of Seacrest before deciding whether to laugh or scream, security guards rushed Cohen away from the awards ceremony.  While the stunt may end Cohen’s time at the Grammy’s, it is one of the most brilliant plans concocted to created buzz for a film.

While there were almost 6 million viewers for the Academy Awards, I was not one of them. However, within an hour of the event, there were videos floating around social media and news sources. I sat stunned in front of my computer at the viral video. It was brilliant! Cohen hit on everything I was interested in: our ridiculous infatuation with celebrities, buzz for his film, and the need to focus on global affairs.

If an average person dumped a pot full of ashes on another person, it would possibly be considered assault (a “salt”). But when a celebrity as well dressed as Seacrest receives an ashing, the world goes berserk. YouTube views soared into the millions and financial success for “The Dictator”[trailer], set to arrive in theaters in May, is sure follow.

As a PR guy, this is what buzz dreams are made of. Sometimes you need to annoy a few people for success; billionaire media mogul Donald Trump knows this. Of course he decided to chime in and say that he wished Seacrest would have punched Cohen. Sit down, Trump. While you’re trying to steal the PR moment and promote your own show, it’s actually further benefiting Cohen’s moment of glory. You can’t buy this kind of media attention. Furthermore, the Academy Awards benefitted from the added media coverage that the prank created.

Coincidentally timed to appear in theaters during this political season, Cohen’s satirical film, “The Dictator”, will undoubtedly bring needed attention to the current human rights atrocities and corruptness occurring in the world. Cohen’s antics, while often disgusting, are poignant for buzz development. Regardless of whether Seacrest was in on the prank, Cohen has re-set the bar for viral videos and his film will have “great success” as it reaps the rewards.

Do you think Cohen’s “ashing” of Seacrest was an appropriate PR stunt?

As was written for the Ampersand blog


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