I have been following the spectacle of the race to a million followers on twitter between Ashton Kutcher and CNN since very early Wednesday morning (or very late Tuesday night), depending on where you’re located.
I first caught wind of it when Kristie Lu Stout reporting on CNN from Hong Kong announced that Kutcher was looking to beat CNN to the 1 million followers mark and that when he did, he would pull a prank on Ted Turner. Soon after, Larry King threw back a taunt, and an appearance on Larry King Live entered into the bargain. There was mention, also, of a prize for the millionth follower. I don’t have a sense of how much buzz all this created.
Somewhere along the line, however, probably an hour maybe two after this announcement was made, suddenly, he added the Mosquito Nets for Africa angle. Even that evolved. First he said he’d provide 1,000 Mosquito nets if tweeps helped him cross the 1 million follower mark before CNN. Then someone told him he really should be donating 1,000 nets anyway, which he promptly conceded and on account of which he raised that number to 10,000 nets. That finally seemed to win him the kind of attention he was looking to garner and today, as I understand it, the race is tighter than it was on Wednesday and the tape at the finishing line is in sight.
So, it’s official: Africa trumps pranking Ted Turner, a head to head between Larry King and Ashton Kutcher and a mysterious prize to the nth follower for garnering attention. Because, let’s face it, it’s about the publicity. The race to get to the one million mark came first. The mosquito nets for Africa were an afterthought. It was about figuring out, by trial and error, what would move the tweeps into action. He tried this, he tried that, and finally, he hit on the magic formula.
As @remarkabletweet succintly put it, it’s “Classic PR Genius.” Which @itsjustmimi heartily agreed with, tweeting enthusiastically: “The man's a business/pr genius.”
Oh but we already had a clue about the power of Africa to sanitize a reputation or a cause. Remember Lindsay Lohan announcing her post-rehab plans a couple of years ago to go on a humanitarian mission to Africa?
My only response is to harken back to this post from my past. And point you, also, to the thoughts of fellow afrophiles.