Miley Twerking, Kanye Running for President, and all the In-Between

On an average basis, I find myself scrolling through BuzzFeed’s home page approximately 5 times a day. Typically I look for funny articles to post on friends Facebook pages or quizzes that tell me “which carb is your soul mate” or “do actually prefer chocolate of cheese”. However Monday afternoon when I stumbled on BuzzFeed I came across 36 articles on the MTV European Music Awards (EMAs), an event that had just occurred within the previous 24 hours. These articles ranged from “13 Things Ruby Rose Looked Like at the MTV EMAs” to “The 29 Most WTF Moments from the 2015 MTV EMAs”.

Though I will admit many of these articles were very entertaining, it brought me to think of how music award shows and celebrities tend to market off viral moments, aided by the advent of social media. Whether it’s an outrageous outfit or a star stunning moment, celebrities strive to out do one another especially when at publically televised events such as the MTV Music Awards. MTV has progressed as a brand over the years, starting out with a focus on promoting artists alongside their music videos. However as innovation in technology emerged where people could use other platforms to listen to music and watch music videos, MTV eventually shifted their brand to become more about the culture surrounding music.

Along serving as the first and most popular music television network, MTV also hosts a series of award shows throughout the year. In the digital age of social media, celebrities have figured out ways to market off the virality of their appearances. From the classic all-denim outfits worn by Britney Spears and Justin Timberlake in 2001 to Miley Cyrus’s twerking performance with Robin Thicke in 2013, music award shows have set the stage for celebrities to shock their fans.

2001- The Unforgettable Britney Spears and Justin Timberlake denim look at the American Music Awards

2001 – Britney’s Iconic “Slave for You” Performance at the VMAs with Snake

2009 – Kanye Disses Taylor Swift at VMA’s

2010 – Lady Gaga’s Meat Dress at the VMAs


2013 – Miley Cyrus and Robin Thicke Twerking Performance at the EMAs

2013 – Miley Lights Joint on Stage at EMAs


2014 – Pharrell’s Hat at the Grammy’s


2014 – Ellen DeGeneres’s Selfie at the Oscars

Ellen DeGeneres group Oscar selfie

2015 – Kanye Announces He’s Running for President in 2020 at VMAs


2015 – Ruby Rose Fires Flamethrower at EMAs

These outrageous moments in award show history are so unforgettable because they utilized viral marketing. Though they were definitely unexpected, they were all still strategically planned for the audiences shock factor. Simultaneously as they occur, they are further marketed through individuals’ social media use. The amount of tweets, Facebook posts, BuzzFeed articles, memes, gifs, etc., further contribute to their virality. Brands like MTV along with celebrities who uphold their own brand image, utilize pre-existing social networking sites to achieve marketing objectives.

BuzzFeed itself has become so popular over the years as it describes itself as the “social news and entertainment company . . . redefining online advertising with its social, content-driven publishing technology . . . provides the most shareable breaking news, original reporting, entertainment and video.” The term “buzz” itself encompasses their entire brand strategy by focusing on tracking viral content. Whether they provide witty articles or funny quizzes, BuzzFeed wants to make their content “shareable” that it provokes people who visit the site to further share through other social media platforms. And it works. So the last question I have for you, chocolate or cheese?


  1. Esmeralda, it was interesting to read your post about how celebrities are using events such as MTV music awards to brand themselves by doing something outrageous that will proliferate social media platforms, such as BuzzFeed. I have to admit that although I’ve heard of BuzzFeed, I rarely check the site. That being said, I am unsure of who else besides celebrities are utilizing this platform when creating “buzz” to brand themselves. From your post, it seems like celebrities are mostly using venues such as award shows for this “buzz,” and then BuzzFeed is posting (whilst actually promoting that celebrity’s brand image). I wonder, could celebrities extend beyond award ceremonies and create a specific strategy with BuzzFeed to post certain content to make sure they are promoted in a certain way?

    Side note: although I love chocolate, I got “cheese,” which does make sense because vino + cheese is my favorite snack :)

  2. Reading your article it made me think about the entertainment world, and while it’s certainly always been scripted, with the advent of social media nothing seems spontaneous anymore. Celebrities make a living off of their popularity/appearance, so if there’s an opportunity to promote/improve that they won’t hesitate to take it. Kanye knew exactly what he was doing when he jumped on stage in front of Taylor and we talked in class about how Ellen’s selfie was a Samsung-specific promotion. It makes me long for the denim-clad innocence of Brittney and Justin. Ha.

  3. So first of all, I’m definitely a much larger fan of cheese than chocolate.

    On another note, I completely agree with @shapirokeith. As stars take increasingly drastic measures to go viral, they almost, in effect, cannibalize themselves. For instance, nothing Kanye does surprises me anymore. Actually, the thing that would surprise me most, is if Kanye were to help an elderly woman cross the street. I might even retweet that! What I’m trying to say is now that the innocence is lost, and consumers of celebrity news are catching on the strategy behind these stunts, they carry less weight. We become desensitized. Eventually, Miley is going to run out of crazy things to do while almost nude, and Lady Gaga will run out of household objects that she can wear as clothing and we, the consumer, will always be left wanting more. I’m interested to see what the new definition of “shocking” will be once this desensitization settles in – also, scared.

  4. This is a great post. It makes me think about all of the useless time that is spent on dumb things that celebrities do. Getting something to go viral is a mystery, however, I feel like it’s pretty easy to do if a person of high status does something to embarrass themselves or others. People seem to be drawn to content that makes others look like fools. Other than watching the live performances, I will only tune into an awards show if I’m bored and expecting someone like Kanye to do something ridiculous so I can be in the know and see it live. As far as Buzzfeed goes, I have not yet gotten addicted to it’s site and content (mainly because I’m avoiding spending so much time on it). Whenever I go on Buzzfeed, they have articles and lists that are so easy to read and so easy to relate to that it keeps people like myself on the site for hours. Pure genius.

    p.s off the top of my head I would think I am a chocolate guy, but the quiz proved me wrong and I got cheese. You don’t really think of all the things that cheese is on until you take that quiz.

  5. Honestly, I think that doing something ridiculous should not grant you a better brand or a better fan base. This is a problem that i think is predominantly strong in the United States. It seems that the more someone does something outrageously out of the norm the more attention they seem to be getting. Which only makes them want to keep acting they way they do. Social Media is the medium through which these celebrities get their attention that they are seeking. The problem is that in my opinion it gives people the wrong set of values of what should be advertised. Society is seeing more of Miley Cyrus twerking and less of a local hero standing up for bullying. This is a problem that the media has to solve on its own, as they are the biggest catalysts in the first place. It would be interesting to see how normal people could help solve this problem however.

  6. It’s interesting to think about what is and isn’t scripted in the entertainment industry. Either way, it wouldn’t be a boring job to be the person that comes up with these ridiculous stunts. Celebrities never want to lose their fame, so of course they’re always thinking of their next move and how to continue to brand themselves. BUT THAT MUST BE SO TIRING! Flying in a private jet is cool but at the end of the day, I’d hate having to think about every action knowing that someone is always paying attention.

  7. The Kanye Presidential announcement has to be one of my favorites. I like this topic of celebrity behavior going viral; earlier in the year I blogged about Miley Cyrus vs Nicki Minaj at the VMAs. These celelbrities have done some crazy things and it ends up all on social media the next day. It leads us to think if sometimes it is scripted and they know it will go viral, or is it their genuine peronality coming out on stage. I think it varies ocassion to ocassion. For example, I think Ellen Degeneres’ selfie at the Oscars was scripted to a certain extent; her and Samsung may have teamed up to pull it off. Whereas instances in the heat of the moment like Kanye interrupting Taylor Swift, Taylor seemed actually shocked and I doubt she saw that coming as part of some greater publicity plan. Social Media creates a great means of viral marketing for celebreities, and I think the saying “theres no such thing as bad publicity” does hold true. Also, I wonder if Kanye is actually going to run for president in 2020?

  8. Nice post. I guess it’s hard to make sure you stand out with everything going on with social media these days. Even celebrities need to get the shock value.

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