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.
Godzilla is back after 16 years away from the megaplex, but is he big enough to compete with the Marvel superheroes dominating the box office right now? With so many movies competing for the same young male demographic, the so-called King of the Monsters will have to put up a terrific fight to hold his own with “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” and “The Amazing Spider-Man 2,” as well as the upcoming “X-Men: Days of Future Past.”
After Roland Emmerich’s take on the franchise was met with some displeasure among fans, the filmmakers have been careful to give them a movie they can enjoy. The care lavished on the movie has carried over into the marketing campaign, which has showcased the modern look and feel of the new movie while respecting the lore and embracing nostalgia for the franchise, with fans at the center of the campaign. Fans were given the opportunity to win tickets to preview screenings by using the Godzilla location tracker, to enjoy both mobile and desktop games, design their own wallpapers with a custom site, download a Godzilla roar ringtone and read up on the backstory to the movie on mutoresearch.net.
The marketing has embraced social media, with prominent YouTubers invited to the YouTube Space to produce “Godzilla”-themed videos, some of which have received millions of views, helping to contribute to an overall view count well in excess of 100 million. This number has also been boosted by tie-ins from Snickers and Fiat, which ran an ad featuring Godzilla munching on their cars.
Buzz at 0.45% is also very strong, 10 points above average and doubly impressive bearing in mind the sheer number of views. On this metric “Godzilla” is shaping up well compared to “Captain America” with a lead of over 40 million views, but is a few million shy of “Spider-Man 2’s” 126 million, and will likely be eclipsed by “X-Men” soon.
On Twitter, the hashtag #demandtoknow initially tied into the viral marketing campaign but since then fans have been encouraged to share their favorite memories of Godzilla, which leverages fans’ nostalgia for the character and ties into the offline exhibition showcasing Godzilla’s influence on pop culture. Another initiative saw fans being asked to send Vines of their best Godzilla impressions using the hashtag #godzillaroar, which was supported by Vine superstar Matt Espinoza, who reached out to his 3.3 million followers and 1.7 million Instagram followers to take part. “Godzilla” lands between the “Spider-Man” and “Captain America” sequels, which posted huge totals of 954,000 and 455,000 release week tweets, respectively. “Godzilla” also has a smaller Facebook presence, but that’s understandable as these other movies were building on existing fan pages while “Godzilla” has started from scratch.
Images and videos have been heavily pushed to maximize engagement and sharing, as on the Tumblr account which has posted lots of fan art and images influenced by past “Godzilla” movies. The Legendary Pictures Instagram account also got in on the act, posting “Game of Thrones”-referencing memes before the show airs on Sundays. Its last monster movie, “Pacific Rim,” opened to $37 million, and while the two are shaping up in a similar way on search with close to 400,000 — suggesting they have a similar appeal with older demographics — the monstrous YouTube view count (compared to “Rim’s” 30 million) suggests “Godzilla” will be opening much higher. However, “Captain America” clocked up 527,000 searches and “Spider-Man 2” got 434,000, so “Godzilla” should be looking at opening to similar numbers.
Final Expectations: “Godzilla” will eat the weekend competition and “Pacific Rim’s” Kaiju for breakfast, and could well chow down on some Marvel movies too.
“Million Dollar Arm”
“Million Dollar Arm” is a heart-warming drama aimed at a completely different demo than “Godzilla,” appealing to older audiences looking for some cheerful entertainment. This is borne out by a search value that is very high in comparison to the other metrics, suggesting older users rather than young audiences are attracted to the movie. Search is around four times the size of recent sports movie “Draft Day,” which debuted to $10 million with 41,000 searches.
Younger audiences would be expected to be more active on Facebook and Instagram, where “Arm” has smaller fanbases, and while the search number is high, there’s a relatively low trailer count, suggesting the movie won’t have the breakout appeal of “Moneyball” or “42,” which debuted with around $20 million. Twitter and Facebook have both been used to showcase endorsements from a variety of sports stars, reaching beyond just MLB stars and to soccer players like Landon Donovan and Drew Brees. The hashtag #changethegame has been used to encourage fans to share stories about inspirational people in their lives, tying into the plot of the movie.
Much of Disney’s campaign has revolved around leading man Jon Hamm’s charm and charisma, and he appeared on the “EWC” show on the MLB network to promote the movie. Hamm’s presence is also likely more appealing to older audiences than to younger fans, explaining the high search volume versus lower social numbers.
Final Expectations: “Million Dollar Arm” will take a more inspirational total than “Draft Day,” but won’t match the cash bought in by “Moneyball.”
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.