Did anyone find Sacha Baron Cohen on the Academy Awards red carpet funny? As a comedic exercise it was at best lukewarm, but as a PR exercise it hit the mark, securing more coverage than if he had topped the “best-dressed” list. Is spilling pancake mix the new way to secure coverage?
Prior to the Oscars there had been some noise about whether the Academy would allow Cohen to walk down the red carpet dressed as the fictional General Aladeen from his upcoming movie The Dictator. Earlier reports claimed he had been forbidden to attend the ceremony, which the Academy denied. In any case, the anticipation generated some pre-Oscar column inches.
During a red carpet interview on the night with Ryan Seacrest of E!, Cohen, carrying an urn filled with the “ashes” of former North Korean ruler Kim Jong-Il said it was Kim’s dream to attend the Oscars and “to be sprinkled over the red carpet and Halle Berry’s chest.” He then tipped the urn to cover an un-amused Seacrest with dust. Cue laughter.
The PR Verdict: “B” for General Aladeen who, despite the joke falling rather flat, got the PR bang he was hoping for. There is no doubt the Dictator got more coverage than if he had walked down the red carpet as plain Sacha Cohen.
This PR stunt generated endless replays, went viral and gave commentators, tired of debating the length of Angelina’s leg, new material. It created the sort of fuss that is the dream of every PR and has been followed up assiduously on social media by Cohen’s PR and marketing team. Now, the the real test will be to see whether the 1.5 million hits on You Tube translate into movie ticket sales.