Ashton Kutcher Punks Twitter: A Giant Million Follower PR Stunt
Ashton Kutcher's million Twitter followers did not "just happen".
This is not a story of the "little man" beating out "big media" — this is the story of a major Hollywood celebrity orchestrating a massive, social media publicity campaign that was specifically designed to promote himself, Twitter and, by extension, Ted Turner and CNN.
The billboards were "donated" by Lamar the the third-largest billboard company in the U.S. and, as of Friday, will reach 34 million impressions. Lamar claims they wanted to support Kutcher's plan to donate malaria nets to charity.
People began noticing the billboards appearing in or near Atlanta (CNN's HQ), Pennsylvania, Detroit, Cincinnati and along the I-75 interstate highway — and they were understandably confused, surprised, and disgusted.
But not only that, as the race to the million follower finish line approached last night, Twitter users were suspiciously blocked from unfollowing either Ashton or CNN — thus ensuring that one of them would reach the million mark without incident. (Thankfully, today, Dave Winer explained how to unfollow aplusk).
Securing Kutcher's victory, however, was a necessary part of the campaign, as the so-called "King of Twitter" was scheduled to appear on Friday's Oprah Winfrey show to help the talk show queen launch her own Twitter brand.
Needless to say, Twitter users are furious over what appears to have been a much larger and more orchestrated celebrity PR stunt designed to punk Twitter into believing that, as Kutcher declared in his 'victory speech', this supposed milestone is somehow "about a statement that one man can have a voice that's as loud as an entire media company. And you can have that voice as well. And we can all have that voice together. And, and, and we can change media forever."
Great idea, except that this is entirely untrue.
Very very few of us are already multi-millionaire, Hollywood celebrities with huge devoted fanbases and, even fewer of us have access to the networks, contacts, and expensive public relations teams necessary to accomplish what Kutcher & Co have done — and that is to manufacture the biggest news story of the week...out of nothing more than one man's pre-existent fame.
As Simon Dumenco at AdAge accurately observes, "something rather retro" is happening here — Twitter is "reverting to a rather pre-Web 2.0 paradigm: broadcasting. The Few speaking to The Many."
If this guy's at the pinnacle of the Attention Economy, then the Attention Economy needs a bail-out.
Using a new-media tool, Kutcher is leveraging his fame to make himself more famous by declaring his intention to become, well, even more famous -- this time in the statusphere.
Is this the beginning of the end or the advent of new beginnings?
Judging by Friday's rising tides of #backlashton, the tweeps ain't feelin' it. See the chatter below:
Here is what people are are saying about the billboard on Twitter;