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.
The “Need for Speed” game franchise is one of the biggest of all time, having shifted over 150 million units worldwide, and social data suggests this popularity will translate to a box office win this weekend. Hollywood will have its fingers crossed for a strong performance from “NFS” with a host of further video game movie tie-ins slated for release over the next few years, as studios look for reliable new source material as a launch pad for franchises appealing to the male audience.
While video games and movies have not always combined to create big screen magic, the combo has brought us successful franchises like “Resident Evil” and cult classics such as “Mortal Kombat”, and tapping an established fan base should be a guarantee of a decent box office return. The depth of “NFS”’s fan base is demonstrated by the fan and view counts across several platforms: the community is 16.7 million strong on Facebook (with a rather low PTAT score) , with 262,000 Twitter followers, a popular tumblr account, as well as 281,000 subscribers to the YouTube channel – which has driven over 27 million trailer views with a very strong 0.49% Buzz, well above average, showing the fans are pleased by what they’ve seen so far. A host of clips have also been offered through Apple trailers. This kind of clout puts “NFS” in Marvel franchise territory, only beaten by “Iron Man”’s 17 million fans, and is 5 million ahead of last weekend’s number 1 movie “300: Rise of An Empire”.
In order to mimic “The Fast and the Furious”’s success “NFS” can’t just rely on the name alone, the cast will have to appeal to a variety of audiences, and in Aaron Paul, Imogen Poots and Kid Cudi “NFS” has a variety of fresh, young stars. Paul is in particular at the height of his powers following the conclusion of Breaking Bad, and he possesses a big social following, particularly on Twitter where he has 1.7 million followers and on Instagram where he has 1.1 million. The likeable Paul has been at the center of the marketing campaign, taking part in a video Q&A on higoodbye.com and another from the Twitter HQ which has helped boost the overall Tweet count to a size suggesting a debut reaching $30 million is in the making.
Paul has also featured in lots of offline cross promotional activities targeting the younger male audience, including appearing on a well-received “WWE Monday Night Raw” and setting the new fastest lap time on “Top Gear” (a YouTube clip which would’ve also boosted the YT Count before it was taken offline). With it’s massive social presence “NFS” is sure to be first past the post this weekend, but will Paul’s popularity be enough to launch it as a genuine contender to “The Fast and the Furious”?
Final Expectations: “Need for Speed” has the social presence to leave rivals eating its dust this weekend.
Tyler Perry’s Single Moms Club
The target audience for Tyler Perry’s latest is explicitly called out in the title. With the male audience busy with its head under “Need for Speed”’s hood or still going into battle with “300: Rise of an Empire”, older females have Tyler Perry’s tribute to single mothers to keep them occupied this weekend. “Moms” has a cast that should appeal to different demos and a great engagement rate, with a very strong PTAT and YouTube Buzz rating as well as interaction on Twitter which suggests that the audience that has been reached may be limited, but is showing strong intent to see the movie.
“Temptation” was Perry’s most successful movie last year, opening to $21 million, and also boasted the best social stats, with 60% of its 180,000 strong fan base engaged, over 5 million YouTube views, and – unusually for a movie targeting this audience – an impressive search volume of 51,000. This surprisingly high amount of searches suggests “Temptation” reached an audience wider than Perry’s staple following, as “Peeples” and “A Madea Christmas” only managed 12,000 and 15,000 searches respectively, and both opened well below $20 million. “Moms” has a fan base that is more engaged and double the size of “Peeples” with more trailer views to boot, so while it probably won’t do as well as “Temptation”, “Moms” should perform better than “Peeples” and “Madea” despite its similar search volume.
Final Expectations: “Single Moms Club” has a committed audience of fans who are highly engaged, but maybe not enough to dramatically turn around Tyler’s box office run.
The Veronica Mars movie is a fascinating case as it has not only sought to engage fans, but has been made possible by them. The Kickstarter project which attracted $6 million of support from 91,585 fans-turned-investors to make the “Veronica Mars” movie happen proves that there is a built-in audience desperate to see Kristen Bell as their favorite detective again, people who have been waiting 7 years since the TV show was cancelled. They’ll finally get their chance this weekend in 270 theaters nationwide (around 10% of the screens of a wide release movie) or at home via DHD.
The digital campaign has been very fan centric, with Facebook Q&As by Kristen Bell – who has also leveraged her 1.39 million Twitter followers – and other stars interacting with fans and character cards catching them up with familiar faces from the TV show. While overall fan, view and tweet numbers aren’t huge the engagement across each platform demonstrates the excitement among fans, particularly on YouTube with an incredibly high 0.78% Buzz rating. There may not be an enormous audience anticipating Veronica’s return, but existing fans couldn’t be more excited.
Final Expectations: “Veronica Mars” will perform strongly among existing audiences and could herald the dawn of a new model of crowdsourced movies being distributed by major players.
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.
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” 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.