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.
“RoboCop” released on Wednesday to get a jump on Valentine’s Day weekend and is off to a fair start despite the winter storms. Marketing has been targeted heavily toward younger males who make up the Marvel crowd and older fans of the original 1987 classic. Social statistics suggest that engagement rates are high on Facebook, YouTube and Twitter (full disclosure: Moviepilot is working with Sony on this campaign).
“RoboCop’s” viral marketing campaign started even before production had begun on the movie: In July 2012 an OmniCorp website went online, featuring teaser videos of the fictional corporation’s products. Videos and viral clips have been released regularly, driving hundreds of thousands of views as the universe behind the movie is fleshed out. In addition to the RoboCop Facebook page, there is also an OmniCorp page with 29,000 organic Likes, which is run as if it were the page of the actual business.
These viral videos have helped drive “RoboCop” to a very high view count, with almost 50 million and counting, as new clips continue to drop. The number is more than any of last year’s original sci-fi titles, and on a par with “Star Trek Into Darkness,” which also launched with around 50 million trailer views, demonstrating high interest in the movie.
“RoboCop’s” other social stats are more down-to-earth, closer to “Elysium” and “Pacific Rim” than mainstream smash “Star Trek.” “Elysium” took $29 million on opening weekend with 361,600 Facebook fans and 46,000 searches, while “Pacific Rim” made $37 million with 418,000 fans and 387,000 searches. As a result, “RoboCop” will more likely score up to $40 million at the box office. “RoboCop” also has the potential to be a big winner overseas. The majority of “RoboCop’s” 764,000 strong Facebook audience is engaged, as reflected by the high PTAT score. With 171,000 tweets, “RoboCop” has one of the highest tweet counts of any films released in 2014 so far.
Final Expectations: Promising numbers across Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and Search indicate “RoboCop” could have ammunition, if the snow doesn’t deter too many fans. “I’d buy that for a dollar!”
Kevin Hart stars in this remake aiming to snag the urban Valentine’s Day audience. Coming off the back of the massively successful “Ride Along,” Hart’s stock has never been higher, and “About Last Night’s” success will depend heavily on that popularity translating into box office dollars.
Hart is emphatically promoting “About Last Night” across all his social-media profiles. His already impressive social-media presence has been boosted by recent success, with his presence now at 11 million Facebook fans, 9.9 million Twitter followers and 5.3 million Instagram followers. This is serious social clout, with Hart’s personal touch on all his profiles making them the perfect extension to his public persona.
“Ride Along” was looking stronger before it raced off to lead the box office for three weeks, debuting with 701,000 Facebook Likes and 20 million trailer and viral video views on release. Both titles share similarly low search values, but this isn’t atypical for a movie of this genre. “Think Like a Man” also released on a high note despite having 44,000 search volume. Twitter is more indicative of intent for this audience, and “About Last Night’s” 44,000 can’t compete with the 90,000 release-week tweets generated by “Ride Along.” But then again, it is Valentine’s Day.
Final Expectations: Kevin Hart will pull in the crowds for Valentine’s Day, but social stats suggest that “About Last Night” won’t match the success of “Ride Along.”
“Endless Love” is another remake, aiming to cash in on the young female audience over Valentine’s Day weekend as “Safe Haven” did last year, but it lacks the “based on the book by Nicholas Sparks” tagline. Alex Pettyfer has been front and center of all marketing as “Endless Love” looks to ensure it snares the young date-night couple audience.
This audience is engaged and excited for the release, shown not only by the 42% PTAT score on Facebook and the 11.5 million video views (both potentially boosted by clever marketing spending targeted at the YF demo), but also by an enormous tweet and retweet count. While the official account has a modest 24,400 followers, “Endless Love” has driven over 200,000 release-week tweets, which are likely mainly organic and demonstrate strong fan interest. However, on search volume, “Endless Love” is behind last February’s “Safe Haven” but ahead of 2012’s “The Lucky One,” both of which chalked up opening weekends over $20 million with 102,000 and 82,000 searches, respectively.
While Pettyfer isn’t a proven box office draw, he has promoted the movie heavily on Instagram, where he has 25,000 Followers, in addition to the 13,000 followers on the “Endless Love” account. He also took over the Yahoo Movies Instagram, posting candid photos from the “Endless Love” promotional tour to the 12,000 Yahoo fans. The photo-sharing platform is most popular among young female users, making it the ideal place to reach “Endless Love”’s target audience. The trailer was also dropped on MTV Movies to appeal to younger fans.
Final Expectations: “Endless Love” has wooed the key young female fanbase, shown by the huge number of tweets counting down to the Valentine’s release.
While “Endless Love” is aimed at a younger audience, fantasy romance “Winter’s Tale,” based on Mark Helprin’s novel, will be competing for the older audience’s attention this weekend, with only “Monuments Men” as a competitor for the same demographic.
With that in mind, “Winter’s Tale” has social stats that appear weaker than those of “Endless Love” as its audience is less active on social, but the two movies’ search volumes are very similar. Along with a largely engaged Facebook fanbase, this suggests the older audience and fans of the book are showing interest in the title moving toward release.
“Winter’s Tale” has also reached out to the younger fans, with Jessica Brown-Findlay taking over Warner Bros.’ Instagram to post behind-the-scenes shots. However, with Facebook fans, YouTube views and tweet volume less than a third the size of “Endless Love’s” totals — despite a release week Promoted Trend on Twitter — “Winter’s Tale” will most likely draw a smaller audience this weekend.
Final Expectations: “Winter’s Tale” has had a frosty reception on social but could warm the hearts of older moviegoers not interested in “Endless Love.”
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.
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 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 more than 40 million views are usually mainstream and set to dominate the box office, while titles drawing 10 million-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 toward 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.