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.
Transformers: Age of Extinction
Aside from the omnipresent superheroes, modern franchises don’t come as big and brash as Michael Bay’s “Transformers.” After three massively successful movies, the master of action returns with the Autobots and Decepticons, joined this time by Mark Wahlberg and fan favorites the Dinobots for what is set to be the biggest movie in the series so far.
Four movies have already opened at over $90 million this year: “Captain America: Winter Soldier,” “The Amazing Spider-Man 2,” “Godzilla” and “X-Men: Days of Future Past.” “Transformers: Age of Extinction” will definitely be joining this club and, judging by the social numbers, could even take top spot for the year so far.
The Facebook fanbase shows the size of the franchise’s appeal, although these 32 million are spread worldwide. It’s in video views where “Transformers” has the most telling lead with a total of over 132 million, the largest this year for any movie. “Transformers” also has taken advantage of Facebook’s native video player to upload trailers and clips that have gained hundreds of thousands of likes and shares, suggesting millions more views in addition to those on YouTube. Next highest on YouTube was the Spider-Man sequel, with 126 million, and “Transformers.”
MTV produced a dizzying supercut of every transformation in the series which isn’t counted here, while Nerdist and Break both produced videos featuring “Transformers” collaboration with ride-sharing app Uber, which showed users getting picked up by Optimus Prime in truck mode. The legendary interplanetary warrior also featured heavily in the Twitter campaign. Fans tweeted questions using the hashtag #optimustweet and Prime replied via soundcloud embeds in the Twitter timeline.
“Winter Soldier” opened highest in 2014 with $95 million, and “Transformers” is set to match that. It’s ahead of “Winter Soldier’s” 455,000 tweets with 550,000 and at 484,000 only just short of “Winter Soldier’s” 527,000 searches, which is the highest of any title so far this year. Allied to the monstrous trailer count, this search volume suggests “Transformers” could even hit three digits at the box office.
Final Expectations: “Transformers: Age of Extinction” will turn into a stack of cash around the $100 million mark this weekend.
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.