Red Carpet Research

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ECU College of Business professors Tracy Tuten, left, and Christy Ashley will track how social media works with celebrities at the 85th Academy Awards ceremony on Feb. 24. (Photo by Cliff Hollis)

ECU business professors tracking social media at Oscars

By Jeannine Manning Hutson
ECU News Services

Two East Carolina University faculty members may not be walking the red carpet at the Academy Awards on Feb. 24, but they will be on Hollywood Boulevard studying the stars as they arrive and, specifically, the brands presented there.

Tracy Tuten and Christy Ashley, both professors in ECU’s College of Business, will be tracking how social media dovetails with celebrity influence.

And they will have front row bleacher seats outside Los Angeles’ Dolby Theatre as film directors, producers and actors walk the famous red carpet for the 85th Academy Awards ceremony.

“The Academy Awards reached 40 million viewers and resulted in 3.8 million comments on social media sites in 2012, which makes the Academy Awards an excellent context to study how social media works with celebrities,” said Tuten, who has expertise in social media. She has been on faculty at ECU since 2009.

Tuten was recently ranked 35 out of top 100 marketing book authors on Twitter by Social Media Marketing magazine.

Ashley studies the emotional connections that people have with brands. Her research focuses on how connections to a particular brand are formed, people’s willingness to forgive a brand or not, and the general loyalty that people may have to a particular product. Both hold doctorates in business administration.

“I do a lot of work with customer experience management. How does a business develop those relationships? This project will focus on the red carpet brands. Even though people will zip through ads on TV, they will watch the red carpet which is just one big long advertisement,” said Ashley, who joined the faculty in 2008.

Their travel is being paid for using private money from a development fund for business faculty members to encourage and enable research. Each researcher is investing $950 from her faculty development fund and will be co-authors of the research study.

Tuten admits to baking a red velvet cake some years on the day of the Academy Awards in honor of the famous red carpet. And seeing the Oscar festivities in person on this trip will allow her to check an item off her bucket list.

Not so for Ashley. “This is not something I would have ever thought of doing, except in this context, but I’m excited about it,” she said.

Follow Tuten and Ashley during the pre-show and the awards at @brandacity (Tuten) and @drcashley (Ashley). They will be using the hashtag “#redcarpetbrands” for the tweets from the Oscars.

The results of their research should be available by the end of May on Tuten’s blog: www.tracytuten.com.