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.
Father’s Day weekend sees two gigantic sequels clashing at the box office, both aimed at different audiences and destined to lock up massive hordes of cash. DreamWorks Animation’s “How to Train Your Dragon 2” is an immensely popular title as evidenced by the toon’s 7 million Facebook fans, and the lull in family movies the past few weeks should mean that young and old are clamoring for a quality movie this weekend.
Social suggests there is huge interest in the title as “Dragon” has chalked up a massive 60 million trailer views with a very impressive 0.50% Buzz, ahead of “Frozen” and this year’s biggest animated movie so far “The Lego Movie” which opened to $64 million with 36.4 million trailer views. This can also be attributed to the fantastic visuals of the franchise, which helped make the first movie such a hit with moviegoers. This aspect has also been brought to the fore via a longform Buzzfeed article showcasing the impressive 3D used in the movies.
Word of mouth is key for family titles and as such a lot of the online campaign has focused around interesting and engaging parents, with clips being released with Yahoo! Movies which has an older audience. Twitter has been used to reach out to parents, in particular moms who are key decision makers for family titles. Parental advisors and mommy bloggers hosted a #HTTYD2chat and re-tweeted features through parenting advice channels. This chat drove over 7,000 Tweets from moms during release week. Overall “Dragon” chatter is on a par with “Lego” which drove 98,000 tweets, and ahead of “Mr.Peabody” which opened to $32 million with 27,000 Tweets. Twitter and Instagram also featured a #spottoothless hashtag competition for fans, and the official site hosts an in-depth dragonpedia for kids and parents alike, appealing to anyone who enjoyed the first movie.
Search is a good indicator of intent among older audiences and “Dragon” is up with the 126,000 of “Lego,” but below the 155,000 searches of Disney’s blockbuster “Frozen.” “Dragons'” massive trailer count — well ahead of “Lego” and “Frozen” — counts in its favor, but it seems Hiccup will fly below the close to $70 million totals of these movies.
Final expectations: “Dragon” will soar to a huge total over $60 million this weekend.
“22 Jump Street”
Social stats suggest “22 Jump Street” will eclipse “Neighbors'” recent success, opening well above $50 million for Sony, but probably come in second to “Dragon” this weekend. “22” has the jump on most of the comedies coming out this year and arrives at a time when “Neighbors” is nearing the end of its run in theaters.
Like “Dragon,” “22” is building on the massive success of the first movie in the franchise. The popularity of the name is shown by its 3.3 million Facebook fans — way ahead of this year’s other comedies like “Neighbors” and “A Million Ways To Die In The West” which both started with less than 1 million. For existing fans and the college age target demographic “22” has a Metro City State University site, inspired by college websites and filled with content from brobible.com, which is especially popular among young fans.
Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill are immensely popular stars as evidenced by their Twitter profiles, with 10 million followers between them, and the chemistry between the duo is showcased all through the movies’ promotional clips and trailers. The trailers have racked up a massive 38.2 million views and the total has been added to by YouTube celebrity Jimmy Tatro who producing a “22” video for his 2 million subscribers.
The fact that the previews are hilarious is shown by the excellent 0.59% Buzz rate. This means “22” will start with around 15 million more views than “Neighbors” with 24.4 million, which also had a 0.59% Buzz rating (mainly thanks to the awesome airbag gag). Awareness and excitement for the movie is high, and “22” is again ahead of “Neighbors” with almost 500,000 tweets, double the 218,000 volume of “Neighbors” — which was also a huge total. “22” has played to the younger audience by joining in with “Throwback Thursday” tweets referencing the first movie.
“Neighbors” does chalk up a win on search where it had 140,000 views, which suggests “22” will play to a younger audience — a lot of “Neighbors’” success was thanks to its appeal to both audiences under and over the 25 age group. Despite a very strong start, this means that while “22” will likely open over the $49 million of “Neighbors” it might not be able to sneak over $60 million and take the top spot from “Dragon,” which has the power of family audiences behind it.
Final expectations: The massive popularity of the cast, hilarious footage and growing excitement suggests “22 Jump Street” is set to lock up at least $55 million 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.