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.
Of the four swords and sandals movies released this year “Pompeii’s” release date and social stats put it in the middle of the pack, coming between January’s “The Legend of Hercules” and March’s “300: Rise of An Empire,” with “Hercules”, starring Dwayne Johnson, following in summer.
“Pompeii” is set to release with lower volume on Facebook and YouTube than “Legend of Hercules,” which opened to $9 million. However, “Pompeii” does have more engagement and interest shown by a high PTAT score on Facebook and a higher buzz rate on YouTube as well as slightly more overall search volume. “Pompeii” also released its first trailer and a series of clips on Yahoo! movies which are not included in the YouTube view count and would have seriously boosted the overall total.
“Legend of Hercules” and “Pompeii” are more modestly sized than the Zack Snyder-produced blockbuster, “300” sequel, which is shaping up as the most fearsome of the swords and sandals legion with anticipation building since last summer’s release date change and teaser drop. The Spartan sequel has amassed a horde of 11 million Facebook fans and a monstrous 57 million views on YouTube at an impressive 0.34% Buzz rate, with three weeks still to go until release. Most movies will find it hard to compete with these numbers.
“Pompeii” boasts a cast familiar to most from popular TV shows, if not for their film work, particularly “Game of Thrones’s” Kit Harington in the lead role, as well as “24’s” Kiefer Sutherland and “Lost’s” Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje. However, they come without a prodigious social presence. Cross-promotional efforts have been made to take advantage of the casts’ familiarity, such as Harington taking over the Yahoo! movies Instagram account to document his real life trip to the ruins of Pompeii. Image-wise “Pompeii” also has an impressive Tumblr including many spectacular gifs of the movie.
Final Expectations: “Pompeii” isn’t the gladiator movie armed with the heaviest social stats this year, but will have enough to defeat “Legend of Hercules”.
Kevin Costner may have “3 Days to Kill,” but he only has one week to implement his special set of skills before Liam Neeson returns in “Non-Stop,” a movie with a similar premise and much stronger social stats. “Taken” re-invented Neeson as a merciless action star and the same could happen for Costner, under the auspices of “Taken” producer Luc Besson.
“3 Days to Kill” has around 220,000 Facebook likes and 3 million trailer views behind the totals put up by “Non-Stop,” which also has a search volume twice as high as “3 Days to Kill” over a week from release. As search is the prime indicator for older demographics, this suggests that the similar audience the movies are shooting for is leaning more toward Neeson than Costner’s actioner.
“3 Days” has tried to tap into a younger video game audience in conjunction with gaming network MLG Games, where users could view expert players taking on a “Call of Duty” marathon challenge for three days with opportunities to win tickets to the film. This stunt drove over 130,000 tweets of the hashtag #opTIC3DTK in the last week (although those tweets are not included in the total above).
The success of “Lone Survivor” showed that there is still an appetite for quality action movies, but Mark Wahlberg’s movie entered theaters with four times as much social heat across every platform. “3 Days to Kill”’s stats are closer to a previous Mark Wahlberg effort, “Broken City”, which had a search volume of 42,000 and took $8.3 million on opening. It’s Facebook and Youtube stats are ahead of last month’s “Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit”, which opened at $15.4 million at only 33,000 fans and 2.3 million trailer views. However, “3 Days” has less than half the volume on Twitter and Search, more indicative for this target audience.
Final Expectations: “3 Days to Kill’s” search volume suggests it will debut at a level between “Broken City” and “Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit,” rather than reaching the heights of “Lone Survivor.”
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 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.