Digital Box Office Drilldown: How this week’s wide release is shaping up on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Google
Does digital data offer indicators that can be used to monitor marketing effectiveness and redict 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 laid out in the appendix below) over the seven days leading up to their release, when marketing campaigns should be at their peak.
“That Awkward Moment”
You’d expect a movie named after an Internet meme to have great social stats, and “That Awkward Moment” does not disappoint. The raunchy romcom has a comprehensive social-media presence, with millions of fans and followers across its different accounts. The movie’s marketing has concentrated on engaging the young female demographic, which is very active on social and represents the majority of lead Zac Efron’s fanbase.
Efron has a huge social-media presence himself, with 10.8 million Facebook fans, 7.5 million Twitter followers and 1.3 million Instagram followers, whom he has engaged through regular updates and postings. The impact of the Efron factor will be limited by the R-rating — earned thanks to a sense of humor punctuated by dildos, toilet jokes and viagra pills, meaning approximately one third of Efron’s online fanbase won’t get to see the movie in theaters (without an accompanying adult, of course).
Nevertheless, Zac’s Instagram is full of candid images and Instavids from the “TAM” promotional tour, his Facebook has been used as a central place for varied “TAM” content and Twitter has concentrated on retweeting fan excitement and promo tour updates.
“TAM” has built an impressive fan base itself across Facebook and Twitter, with 430,000 fans and 500,000 followers, respectively. Facebook fans have been rewarded with a series of exclusive clips, while tweets have concentrated on punning on the title. The young female demographic has also been targeted through the official “TAM” Instagram account, as well as the creation of two official sites: one on Tumblr, where young females are highly active — just look at the dozens of Efron-themed blogs across the platform — while the other is aimed at the cheekier fan that’s interested in R-rated material.
The fan and follower numbers are ahead of “Don Jon,” a male-lead comedy which targeted a similar young female audience last year. “Don Jon” entered theaters with just 187,000 Facebook fans and less than 50,000 Twitter followers spread across different accounts, and was generating slightly less chatter with 45,000 release week tweets.
That said, “Don Jon” did have a lead on YouTube with 10 million views on release, but the “TAM” Facebook clips do not count toward the overall YouTube view count, which along with an exclusive iTunes featurette, would see the total go well north of the recorded 7 million views. “Don Jon” lead on search as well with a value of 138,000, and “TAM” is also behind 2012’s “This Means War,” which debuted to $17.4 million on 108,628.
While the social numbers for “TAM” are very strong, the low search value and Twitter activity outside of the official accounts indicate a lack of interest beyond “TAM’s” core young female audience. This suggests that ““TAM” will take more than “Don Jon”’s opening $8 million at the box office this weekend, but likely won’t outstrip the PG-13 rated “This Means War’s” opening. As encountered by “TAM,” wrestling with high fan and follower counts but comparatively low engagement is a recurring problem for marketing on social platforms.
Grades for “That Awkward Moment”
Both of this weekend’s releases are example of counter-programming aimed at women not watching the Super Bowl. while “TAM” might expect to have high social numbers and a low search value due to its younger target demographic, book adaptation “Labor Day’s” older audience should see the opposite — a higher search value with lower social numbers.
Less than 50,000 Facebook likes is acceptable for a drama with an older target demographic, especially as the audience is primarily engaged, shown by the high PTAT score. Buzz is also strong on YouTube (although it has less than 1 million views). Both numbers indicate strong interest, if only among a small audience. There is also a small audience of fans active on the film’s Pinterest account, the social site where the movie’s older female audience is expected to be the most engaged.
However, there is more excitement on Twitter for a holiday still eight months away than this movie, with very low tweet counts suggesting there is relatively little anticipation among the wider film-going audience. The search value is low for a movie that once harbored awards pretensions, a little lower than 2011’s “One Day,” (although a more popular book) which debuted with 68,100 search. This indicates there is still only a small amount of interest in the title from its key audience, which could lead to a modest opening this weekend.
Grades for “Labor Day”
Tobias Bauckhage (@tbauckhage) is co-founder and CEO of www.moviepilot.com, a social-media-driven movie community reaching over 15 million Facebook fans and 7 million monthly unique users. Based on community data, Moviepilot helps studios to optimize their social media campaigns, identifying, analyzing and activating the right audiences. The company works with studios like Sony, Twentieth Century Fox and FilmDistrict.
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.