While most people watching Sunday night's Oscars knew host Chris Rock would come up with a hilarious, cutting response to the #OscarsSoWhite controversy—and weren't disappointed—no one expected that he would engineer the night's biggest, and sweetest, brand spotlight for one of the most high-profile Girl Scout cookie sales in history.
An hour and a half into the ceremony, Rock explained that because of his Oscar hosting duties, "I've been away from my two daughters at a very important time in their life. I have missed most of Girl Scout cookie season." After explaining that his younger daughter, Zahra, lamented coming in second during her troop's cookie sales, he told the audience, "I want you to reach into your millionaire pockets, and I want you to buy some of my daughter's Girl Scout cookies."
A local Girl Scout troop then flooded the Dolby Theatre, selling boxes of cookies to willing celebrities. Kate Winslet, John Legend, Matt Damon, Steve Carell, Julianne Moore and Christian Bale were among those eating.
Then, 45 minutes later, Rock assembled the troop on the stage for what he called "the big moment of the night": the revelation that $65,243 had been spent on cookies. "A lot of you kicked in," said Rock, before singling out one Hollywood heavyweight who didn't. "Harvey Weinstein, kiss my ass! But everybody else, I love you."
The cookies made one final appearance during the closing moments of the ceremony: Rock mentioned the Girl Scouts one more time while Morgan Freeman (who had just presented best picture to Spotlight) and Michael Keaton (who starred in it) sampled the box of Thin Mints he had onstage.
They didn't win any awards or spend a dollar on Oscars advertising or integration, but the Girl Scouts ended up as the night's biggest brand winner.
The Girls Scouts were first approached two weeks ago about appearing on the Academy Awards, and the details were locked in last week. The request came from Rock himself, said Stewart Goodbody, director of communications for Girl Scouts of the USA. "He has personal ties to Girl Scouts, and he speaks really highly of the organization. And he felt it would be a great idea to do something fun and light-hearted and shine the light on something positive in this year's Oscars telecast. And we think he knocked it out of the park."
The Los Angeles-based Girl Scouts troop that sold the cookies to Oscar attendees was also hand-picked by Rock. The girls brought at least 400 boxes to sell. "But we're dealing with businesswomen, these Girl Scouts, so we would not be surprised if they had many more on hand. They love to be prepared," said Goodbody. They were also apparently sensational salespeople—the boxes are $4 apiece, so if just 400 were sold, they walked away with an average of $163 a box.
Unlike Ellen DeGeneres' famous selfie, which turned out to be a paid integration with Samsung, during the 2014 Oscars, the Girl Scouts appearance wasn't an integration, and the organization paid no money to ABC or the academy, said Goodbody.
But the Girl Scouts social media team was ready to go, tweeting and Instagramming photos of celebs indulging in the cookies and providing links for curious consumers to find and order their own.
Enjoy, Kate! https://t.co/6ELBZas7mh— Girl Scouts (@girlscouts) February 29, 2016
Celebrities added their own pictures of Girl Scouts cookies, including Rock, who said that even Vice President Joe Biden chipped in:
"We're in the thick of cookie season right now, and it just so happens that Sunday was the last day of National Girl Scout cookie weekend, so the timing couldn't have been more perfect," said Goodbody. "We know that everybody loves supporting the girls in addition to just enjoying the sweet treats themselves, and we knew that seeing celebrities partaking and having fun in such a fun bit would lead the general public to be interested as well and want a little bit more information, etc. So we were at the ready to spread the word."
What will happen to the money raised on Sunday night? "As with all funds that come in through the Girl Scout cookie program, they stay local," Goodbody said. "The girls actually decide how to invest their cookie funds, and we do know that this troop specifically, they're really enthusiastic about doing a school supply drive for foster children. So we're proud of them for supporting such an important cause."
The organization's Oscars appearance resulted in 49,023 tweets around Girl Scout cookies between 8:30 p.m. and 12:30 a.m. ET, and Girl Scout cookies had more Oscars-related digital content engagement than other brands that advertised on the show (paying between $1.9 million and $2 million for each 30-second Oscars ad), according to data from Amobee Brand Intelligence.
"This certainly was an enormous, enormous spotlight, and we were blown away—but we've had some amazing opportunities in the past, like with the Super Bowl last year [when Girl Scout troops teamed up to sell $355,000 in cookies in 24 hours]," said Goodbody. "We're just thrilled that Girl Scouts seems to be top of mind."
Goodbody described the heightened profile and huge brand boost for the Girl Scouts in the past day as "an absolute whirlwind."
"And, of course, the most important thing to us is did the girls have fun?" she said. "And we've heard from all of them, and it was one of the most important nights of their lives. They just had a ball. In addition to the excitement of meeting these celebrities, they also talked about the education they got being backstage at the Oscars, seeing how show business works. Only in Girl Scouts do you get this kind of opportunity."
But will Rock's children, and their troop, benefit from the huge spotlight their dad gave the organization on Sunday night? "They'll have to wait and see," said Goodbody.