Big-budget Hollywood director Michael Bay (Transformers, Armageddon, The Rock) had an onstage meltdown last week at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. He was there promoting the electronics giant Samsung and its new 105-inch curved UHD television. It started off OK, but then the teleprompter went down, leaving Bay at a loss for words. Suddenly incapable of putting together an English sentence, the
A-list director muttered, “Excuse me, I’m sorry …,” turned and walked off stage. The video of the live event quickly went viral, surpassing one million YouTube views.
Now, I’ve met a few successful movie directors, and they all impressed me as outstanding, natural communicators. Directors do nothing all day but communicate – with writers, studio execs, actors, department heads and ultimately, audiences. That’s one of the reasons I suspect that Bay’s gaffe was more stratagem than stage fright. As he watched Bay flounder, Samsung Executive Vice President, Joe Stinziano, pitched him a softball question, “The curve, how do you think it’s going to impact how viewers experience your movies?” It was this unanticipated query that finally drove Bay from the stage.
Picture this: it’s a few days before CES, and Samsung’s newly hired creative team is desperately searching for some way to get Samsung’s name and the fanfare accompanying its curved TV heard above the din of business-as-usual at the world’s largest, not open to the public, tradeshow. Someone in the room mentions “viral video,” but everyone present knows that’s a million-to-one shot. Then a young man in the corner blurts out, “Michael Bay is a big name – can’t we use him somehow?” With that, there is an explosion of ideas. Raising his arms, the senior most exec in the room announces, “We need something like a ‘wardrobe malfunction’ that will be sensational, look spontaneous and is easy enough for Michael to pull off.” Bay is contacted, and he loves the idea.
Following the show, it was confirmed as the largest ever, with 150,000 attendees, 35,000 of whom were from outside the U.S. “One-third of the world’s population interacted with CES in some way this week, as we experienced the future,” said Gary Shapiro, president of the Consumer Electronics Association. “From curved and flexible Ultra HD TVs and next-generation smartphones to drones, robots, sensors, the Internet of Everything, Hi-Res audio, connected cars and 3D printers, it seems like the only thing missing from the 2014 CES was a time-travel machine,” Shapiro said.
I think you’re starting to get the idea. Corporate America knows that the least expensive and most effective communications tool now available is the viral video, and I’m predicting an uptick in the number of celebrities having some telegenic mishap in the vicinity of the product they are promoting. Remember the truism, “There’s no such thing as bad publicity.”
How did things work out for Samsung and Michael Bay? Sunday night’s Golden Globe Awards (21 million U.S. viewers) had host Tina Fey doing her wildly funny impersonation of Michael Bay, as she stumbled, coughed, and finally gave up on an introduction of presenters Chris Evans and Uma Thurman. Its 105-inch TV (price still not announced) got coverage from CNN, Bloomberg and all the network news programs. The New York Times, The Washington Post, USA Today, and hundreds of other newspapers worldwide carried stories. By all accounts, it was the hit of the show. And coincidentally, the new Michael Bay-produced pirate series, Black Sails, debuts this Saturday on YouTube (a week before it airs on Starz).
What do you think? You can watch Michael Bay’s CES 2014 meltdown below: