Can a single selfie really be worth between $800 million and $1 billion?
That is what Maurice Levy, CEO of advertising firm Publicis, said that Ellen DeGeneres' infamous Oscar selfie was worth to its client Samsung. In case you forgot, here is the star-filled photo DeGeneres tweeted out during the Oscars broadcast:
That is a lot of A-List celebrities posing in front of a Samsung Galaxy Note 3. The tweet itself was seen by 37 million people while the Oscar broadcast was seen by 43 million.
Levy, speaking to a crowd at the MIPTV marketing event on Monday, claimed responsibility for that photo and the recent selfie featuring professional baseball player David Ortiz and President Barack Obama.
“This is something we did for Samsung,” Levy said. “It's us.”
NBC News reached out to Samsung for comment but the company did not respond.
Putting a dollar amount on a selfie, however, is an inexact science. Companies shelled out $1.8 million for a 30-second TV spot during the Oscars. So why would DeGeneres' tweet be worth more than $800 million?
“It does seem high, but if you think about the value of customers and social shares, then potentially that valuation is correct,” Jonah Berger, an associate professor of marketing at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, told NBC News.
Some studies, he said, show that word-of-mouth endorsements — including social media — are worth 10 times more than a paid ad. (Not to mention Samsung would have to pay a king’s ransom to have well-liked celebrities like DeGeneres, Brad Pitt and Jennifer Lawrence star in the same advertisement).
The selfie did not feature Samsung’s logo, but the video and photos initially shared by the media did. The extra attention generated by articles like this one doesn't hurt either.
Social media buzz goes the other way too. Samsung probably was not too happy when NBA star LeBron James, who is a spokesperson for the Korean consumer electronics company, tweeted that his phone deleting his photos was one of the “sickest feelings I've ever had in my life.”
Right now, in a world where people “don’t trust traditional advertising" and tune out during commercials, selfies shared organically by celebrities are worth a lot. But that could change if consumers get jaded by publicity stunts.
“Selfies are the new bandwagon that marketers are jumping on,” Berger said. "If too many of them seem like ads and marketers start peeing in the pool, then it’s going to ruin it for everyone else.”