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  • Michael Field

Social Media Crisis - Oscars 2017


Envelope-gate (I don't like it anymore than you do) was all the talk of this year's Academy Awards ceremony. By now, everyone knows the movie "Moonlight" won Best Picture, but not before losing to "La La Land" who was mistakenly announced as the winner by presenters Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty. Mistakes happen. Unfortunately, the fail-safes to quickly correct these types of errors his where this controversial ending found its roots.

There are two identical envelopes on either side of the stage, because it's unclear which side some presenters will enter from. Once the presenters grab their envelope, the other one is set aside and the next award's envelope is placed on stage awaiting the next presenter. This is done by the Price Waterhouse accounting firm. Two accountants. One on each side of the stage to make sure the right envelopes are put in the right hands.


On this particular night, this didn't happen. The duplicate envelope for Best Actress was left out, while the accountant in charge of handling that side of the stage was too busy taking photos backstage and posting them to Twitter. (See to the left)

Never mind that the two accountants in charge are never supposed to be on the same side of the stage during the show, yet...they were.

Of course, social media blew up with people reacting to the night's events. Both the Academy and Price Waterhouse issued statements. While the Academy's statement came 24-hours after the event, Price Waterhouse's was immediate. Almost right after the broadcast of the show. And to Price Waterhouse's credit, they took full responsibility for the error. They didn't make excuses. Their message was simple and honest.

Mistakes were made. We're going to find out how and fix them.

They even released a second statement on the Monday night as well revealing more background on the incident, showing their investigation is in progress.


Now, I'm a proponent of the use of social media during work hours. Everyone works for a brand and your strongest attribute to promoting that brand is your smartphone. The accountant posting to Twitter during the ceremony is promoting the ceremony, even if he was clearly doing it for his own personal ego boost. But there is a line. No one can say for sure if the accountant posting photos to Twitter was the reason for the mishap, but it's terrible optics when people look back to find out what went wrong.

While this crisis was caused by human error, the facts are that we live in a social media world and offline becomes online quick. Response to a crisis needs to be swift online. Price Waterhouse was on top of that. The Academy, not so much. While it wasn't the Academy's error, it is their show and the pinnacle of the year in movies. It's the Oscars! 24 hours is too long for the Academy to respond when an incident on the show caused this much turmoil.

After the 24 hour period, the investigation was quick. they discovered all of the facts and discipline was handed out to the parties involved. And you can be sure, next's years awards show will be as by the book as it has ever been.


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