Simply a selfie or shameless advertising?

Zac Younkins

The Academy Awards was, for the most part, fairly predictable this year. Nothing out of the ordinary happened and no unexpected winners were crowned. Everyone predicted “12 Years A Slave,” Matthew McConaughey and Cate Blanchett to win. Our Oscar host, Ellen DeGeneres, didn’t pull any controversial jokes like Ricky Gervais, and it was all very classy, even if predictable.

Fans and major media outlets were impressed with Ellen’s signature family friendly, smiling, silly humor. The question is, did we really enjoy our host, or are we just expected and trained to like Ellen at this point? She’s been around for years, winning hearts with her talk show, voice work in “Finding Nemo” and even a Disney World ride at Epcot with Bill Nye.

Ellen’s gags at the Academy Awards entertained the masses with trendy uses of Twitter and casual junk food consumption, but for me, it took away from the what the Oscars are at their core. Less analytical TV watchers likely didn’t see the blatant and frequent product placement at work. Ellen’s Twitter-crashing, record-breaking selfie — surpassing 1,300,000 retweets within one hour — was also a low-key but effective product placement ad for Samsung.

If you’re one of the skeptics who thinks Ellen is pure of heart, your naiveté is charming. Ellen was likely paid quite a lot of money to do the joke, as the Samsung label was in the foreground for about 5 minutes. The pizza she ordered also had a conveniently visible Coca-Cola logo. Projected advertisement for the pizza from Big Mama’s and Papa’s, totals $10.8 million of ad space. The franchiser of the restaurant said sales increased up to 500 percent. PepsiCo, which took Coca-Cola’s ad spots for the Oscars this year, is investigating and discussing the unplanned stunt with ABC, which gave its competitors minutes of free screen time.

Still skeptical? Ellen’s tweets from 3 p.m. and until the 10 p.m. selfie were Tweeted backstage from an iPhone. Not much detective work needed to be done thanks to Twitter’s convenient “Tweeted from my iPhone” signature.

The biggest issue with Ellen’s hosting, for me, was the content. It’s hard to tell if a supremely popular comedian is actually being funny. Ellen mistook Liza Minelli for an impersonator, calling her “sir,” joked about Brad Pitt being cheap and called out actors for their lack of a college education. Coming from Ellen, people will chuckle at just about anything, and frankly they did. But in reality, these jokes were all very mediocre, especially coming from Ellen, who likely had a fairly large team of writers at her disposal.

Someone who gets paid top dollar to host TV’s biggest night aside from the Super Bowl ought to blow us away, fill the room with laughter and provide entertaining interludes between awards. I am an Ellen fan, but the creativity was severely lacking. She wasn’t bad like James Franco and Anne Hathaway or Frank Sinatra and Bob Hope, but she wasn’t (as blogs and hair salons are buzzing) “the best host ever.” Whoopi Goldberg, Billy Crystal, Johnny Carson and even Hugh Jackman showed us how it should be done — lavish, entertainment and a spectacle to be remembered.

Contact Zac Younkins at [email protected].