Does digital data offer indicators that can be used to monitor marketing effectiveness and predict box office success even before awareness turns into intent? We analyzed this weekend’s new movies across Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and Google (the methodology behind the numbers is below) over the seven days leading up to their release, when marketing campaigns should be at their peak.
Sony’s “The Amazing Spider-Man 2” is already off to a huge start overseas and arrives after Marvel sequels starring Iron Man, Thor and Captain America all delivered big totals with their post-“Avengers” movies. After the first “Amazing Spider-Man” was somewhat overshadowed by his comic-book teammates in “The Avengers,” will the Spidey sequel be able to stand up for itself or will Peter Parker be sidelined by the Marvel machine that created him?
“The Amazing Spider-Man 2″ stacks up favorably against the latest superhero sequels “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” and “Thor: The Dark World,” which opened to $95 million and $86 million, respectively. While ahead on some metrics, the Spidey sequel is sandwiched between the two on others: search shows “TASM2” with a decent lead on “Thor’s” 380,000 and trails behind the 527,000 searches that “The Winter Soldier” generated. Similarly, Facebook fan counts put Spidey between “Winter Soldier’s” 11 million and “Thor 2’s” 8.3 million on release, suggesting the character’s popularity is fairly evenly matched.
Spidey’s campaign has reached far beyond just superhero fans, for example, emphasizing the role of Emma Stone to appeal to women. And while “TASM2” is smack in the middle of “Thor” and “Captain America” on fan count, it has a slight lead on both when it comes to engagement. With a 9% PTAT, the number of engaged fans is higher than either of the previous superhero sequels, “Thor” releasing with 6% and “Cap” with 7%.
Spidey also has a clear lead on trailer views. Even without the ads from promotional partners Evian and the United States Postal Service, which account for millions more views, the film has racked up a massive 126 million. This number could be boosted slightly due to interest from foreign markets where the movie is already playing; however, clips with the cast on Moviefone and MTV are not counted in the total, creating some balance. The trailer count shows the wide-reaching nature of the campaign and popularity of the cast, as their appearances on TV have gone on to drive millions of views, such as Emma Stone’s lip sync battle with Jimmy Fallon that made the rounds this week.
“TASM2” has also sought to leverage the popularity of the cast and associated stars on Twitter, live tweeting the premiere on the official account, while Jamie Foxx hosted a Q&A with Apple Trailers using the hashtag #AskElectro in reference to Foxx’s character (iTunes also posted to 30 million Facebook fans about the event to drive interest). Twitter is also being used to promote word of mouth as the official account has a separate timeline compiling fan reactions and reviews of the movie. Just before the U.S. release, “TASM2” is far ahead of “Captain America” which drove 300,000 release week Tweets, and only a fraction behind “Thor’s” 1 million.
As on Twitter, the Facebook account has showcased the promotional activity the cast has participated in, including appearances in schools and premieres across the world, as well as featuring clips of the movie. Instead of the usual image posts counting down to the release, the Facebook posts have featured short video clips to promote sharing activity. Alicia Keys has also used her massive Facebook presence of over 30 million fans to promote the official soundtrack and her new video featuring Kendrick Lamar. For the more excited fans, there is a Tumblr account for the “Daily Bugle” (Spidey’s local newspaper), which has featured viral content dropping hints about “TASM2” and potential spinoffs and sequels.
Final expectations: He might not be a big-screen Avenger just yet, but Spidey’s stats show that one-on-one, he’s more than a match for any Marvel hero.
Tobias Bauckhage (@tbauckhage) is co-founder and CEO of Moviepilot, a fan-focused platform for movie geeks, cinephiles and everything in between, reaching over 10 million monthly unique users and over 15 million Facebook fans. Based on community data, Moviepilot helps studios to optimize their social media campaigns, identifying and activating the right audiences. The company works with studios like Sony, 20th Century Fox, Fox Searchlight, a24, CBS films and Focus Films.
While individually these metrics may not mean a lot, compared to one another and in context of competition and genre benchmarks, they give a good impression of the performance of a movie’s marketing campaign and the audience’s appetite for the movie. Needless to say, there are limitations to these data points and the causalities they explain, but as Hollywood just enters the era of Big Data, the potential insight offered by these numbers cannot be ignored.
Facebook fan (or like) numbers are a good indicator for fan awareness for a movie, even months before the release. For mainstream movies with younger target audiences, fan counts are particularly important. However, big fan numbers can be bought and movies with older target audiences typically have lower fan counts. Fan engagement measured by PTAT (People Talking About This) is a more precise but also a fickle indicator, heavily driven by content strategy and media spending. Both numbers are global and public facing numbers from the official Facebook fanpage.
YouTube trailer counts are important for measuring early awareness about a movie. We track all English language original video content about the movie on YouTube, down to videos with 100 views, whether they are officially published by a studio or published unofficially by fans. The Buzz ratio looks at the percentage of unique viewers on YouTube that have “liked” a video and given it a “thumbs up”. Movies with over 40 million views are usually mainstream and set to dominate the box office, while titles drawing 10 million to 20 million views indicate a more specific audience. If a movie does not have a solid number of trailer views on YouTube four weeks before its release, it is not promising news. But again, it is important to understand whether trailer views have been bought or grew organically. These numbers are global and public facing.
Twitter is a good real-time indicator of excitement and word of mouth, coming closer to release or following bigger PR stunts. Mainstream, comedy and horror titles all perform particularly strongly on Twitter around release. We count all tweets over the period of the last seven days before release (Friday through Thursday), that include the movie’s title plus a number of search words, e.g. “movie” OR a list of movie-specific hashtags. Some titles with common words or phrases like “HER” or “LABOR DAY” are very hard to track in a meaningful way on Twitter. The numbers are global, conducted using a Twitter API partner service.
Search is a solid indicator for intent moving towards release as people actively seek out titles that they are aware of and are thinking about seeing. Search is particularly significant for fan-driven franchises and family titles as parents look for information about films they may take their children to see. We look at the last seven days (Friday through Thursday) of global Wikipedia traffic as a conclusive proxy for Google Search volume. We have to consider that big simultaneous global releases tend to have higher search results compared to domestic releases.