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 laid out in the appendix below) over the seven days leading up to their release, when marketing campaigns should be at their peak.
“Dawn of the Planet of the Apes” will end “Transformers: Age of Extinction’s” two-week reign at the top of the box office this weekend. While “Transformers” was widely derided by critics and started with an over $100 million haul, “Apes,” by contrast has overridingly positive reviews. But will this translate into a similar box office total?
The returning Andy Serkis and accompanying new cast of “Apes” have been showcased in the 55 million trailer views, which have garnered a solid 0.33% Buzz. Not included in the total are the 2 million views of short movies produced by Vice’s technology video channel Motherboard, which show the progressive impact of the outbreak of simian flu which causes the “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes.” On top of this, Motherboard produced a short documentary about a real life island where apes run wild, called the “Real Planet of the Apes,” a video combining movie marketing with great content that drove another 2 million views.
The official Twitter account has been used to amplify the positive reviews and responses to screenings of the film, while the cast did a live Q&A, which added thousands of tweets to the weekly total. The director and score composer also took part in a Reddit AMA, leveraging popularity from previous movies like “Cloverfield”.
However, the 700,000+ totals of the movies that opened over $90 million this year (“X-Men: DoFP”, “The Amazing Spider-Man 2,” “Godzilla,” “Transformers: Age of Extinction” are out of reach, with the overall Tweet count coming in between the 115,000 raised by “How to Train Your Dragon 2” and 257,000 of “Maleficent” — movies which opened at $50 million and $67 million, respectively.
Search paints a similar picture with “Apes” racking up 247,000 searches in release week, ahead of “HTTYD2’s” 123,000 but just short of “Maleficent’s” 257,000. With YouTube numbers very strong at 55 million, but lower than “Maleficent’s” 70 million, the social numbers suggest that “Apes” will make around $60 million this weekend, outgrossing “HTTYD2” but coming up short of Disney’s evil witch.
Final Expectations: “Apes” will climb to the top spot with a total of at least $60 million.
Tobias Bauckhage (@tbauckhage) is co-founder and CEO of http://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.
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. 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.