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.
R-rated comedies are to the summer of 2014 what horror was to 2013, with “Neighbors” the latest movie, after “The Other Woman” opened to $25 million last month, to try to entice a young audience looking for some laughs. Seth Rogen will be looking to improve on “This Is The End’s” $20 million opening and social stats give him good reason to believe “Neighbors” will perform well.
“Neighbors” has captivated an audience across several different platforms with active accounts over Vine, Pinterest and Instagram, as well as Facebook and Twitter, with a considerably larger fan base than “The Other Woman,” which had 163,000 fans on release, and ahead of “This Is The End’s” 641,000 at this point, but trailing “Ted,” which had over 1 million. The “Neighbors” Facebook account has promoted a lot of movie clips and funny images, and star Seth Rogen did a Q&A on Complex Magazine’s Facebook page, popular with a strong young urban audience. To tap into other audiences, director Nick Stoller took part in a Reddit AMA and “Workaholics” posted about Rogen’s cameo to its 1.9 million Facebook fans.
The presence of Rogen and Zac Efron, who have been promoting the movie heavily, should appeal to both males and females alike, and both stars have used their considerable social presences to publicize the movie. Rogen has 3.2 million Facebook likes while Efron has 13 million as well as 8 million Twitter followers. Using the hashtag #neighborsmovie, “Neighbors” has generated more release week tweets than “The Other Woman” with 91,000 and “This Is The End” at 54,000, as well as the 91,000 of “Ride Along” earlier this year, but falls short of “Ted’s” 200,000 which lead up to a $54 million opening in 2012.
“Neighbors” is looking very healthy on search, beating out “The Other Woman” in a big way, suggesting that interest extends beyond just younger audiences, but again below “Ted’s” high-water mark of 194,000. “Neighbors” has around 10 million trailer views, and the 4 million views not included here of Rogen and Efron’s Jimmy Fallon sketch would send “Neighbors” way into the lead, suggesting “Neighbors” has appeal that stretches beyond its younger target audiences and should attract older moviegoers as well.
Final expectations: “Neighbors” is driving lots of Twitter conversation and a high search volume suggests its wider appeal could push the movie past “The Amazing Spider-Man 2” this weekend.
Mom’s Night Out
“Mom’s Night Out” arrives in time for Mother’s Day and the marketing campaign has been designed to get moms interested and highlight the family nature of the movie. Fans have been encouraged to talk about who they’re taking with them to see the movie, whether it’s fellow moms or families and kids, and often been reminded why moms are so great.
Raunchy female-led comedies such as “Bridesmaids,” “The Heat,” and most recently “The Other Woman” have all performed well, but this is a very different affair. “Mom’s” wholesome, conservative tone is a world away from these movies, with the family theme contrasting drastically to the drug-dealing, stripping, foul-mouthed patchwork family of “We’re the Millers,” which opened to $26 million last year. “Millers” had around 25% more Twitter chatter before release and had a considerably higher search volume with almost 100,000 searches, demonstrating wider interest in the movie. “The Heat” opened to $40 million with 50,000 searches and tweets. “Mom’s Night Out” should attract older women and families not taken by the family-versus-frat angle of “Neighbors,” but this audience won’t be as large as those enjoyed by raunchier comedies over the past few years.
Final expectations: “Mom’s Night Out” will attract those looking for some non-offensive laughs, but the audience for the movie is much smaller than for the racier comedies unspooling at the megaplex.
Legends of Oz: Dorothy’s Return
“Legends of Oz” is an animated feature aimed at young child audiences. As kids this age are difficult to reach digitally the online campaign has concentrated on appealing to parents, with the Facebook page posting content such as testimonials by kids who’ve enjoyed the movie and featuring peoples’ pets. The musical side of the movie and the presence of “Glee’s” Lea Michele have both featured heavily in order to appeal to fans of the show.
“Legends” lags behind “The Nut Job” and “Free Birds,” which opened in the past year to $19 million and $15.8 million, respectively on trailer views, which suggests awareness isn’t as wide. With 7.5 million views, “Nut Job” had more than twice as many, and “Free Birds” was far ahead with 11 million. Trailer views are a better indicator of awareness here than search which is low for all titles, and Twitter activity is low considering the official “Legends” account has 92,000 followers.
Final Expectations: Numbers suggest that “Legends” has only reached a niche audience with its online campaign, so it will fall short of the totals made by other independently produced animated titles.
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.