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.
This weekend sees a change-up in theaters as “Maleficent’s” four-quadrant, family appeal follows two weekends’ worth of action-heavy movies catering more toward male audiences than women. The timing could be key in sending “Maleficent” towards a very large total, although the fantasy film starring Angelina Jolie will be hard pressed to match up to the eye-watering totals posted by a trio of Marvel movies and “Godzilla” so far this year.
The digital campaign has concentrated heavily on reaching both older and younger women, with a large presence on two platforms particularly popular among females. Disney’s Instagram has regularly posted about “Maleficent” to its 73,000 followers, and Tumblr hosted a glossy lifestyle blog inspired by the movie with the name “Evil Is The New Black.”
“Maleficent” released an iBook for tablets, which are particularly popular among older audiences rather than mobile for younger demos. Features and clips have been published across pages with more mature demographics such as Yahoo! Movies and Moviefone, and “Maleficent” has also gained a following of 20,000 Pinterest fans. The Facebook page has featured craft activities for parents to work on with kids, and NY Times blog featured an article on the distinctive makeup worn by Jolie.
Makeup has been a strong part of the campaign appealing to younger women, too. YouTubers with millions of subscribers were commissioned to feature tips on getting the “Maleficent” look, driving over 500,000 total views on their videos, which haven’t counted toward an already hefty trailer view count of nearly 70 million. Trailer Buzz is also above average, especially given the high count, at 0.42%. “Maleficent” has spread its wings and exclusive content across many websites with younger appeal such as E! Online, Teen Vogue (which focused on the younger star Elle Fanning rather than Angelina), PopSugar and Hot Topic.
“Maleficent” looks set to open ahead of “Snow White and the Huntsman’s” $56 million, but fall short of the $79 million scored on the first weekend by “Oz: The Great and Powerful.” All were produced by Joe Roth.
“Maleficent” doesn’t have such an illustrious title, but it does have similar tweet and search volume, which are good indicators of awareness among older audiences, who will decide whether or not families see the film. “Maleficent” is ahead on Twitter with 376,000 tweets, where “Frozen” and “Snow White” clocked up 88,000 and 178,000 respectively, and again on search where “Frozen” had 155,000. However “Oz” was out ahead with an enormous 468,000. “Frozen” had great word-of-mouth among family audiences and a catchy soundtrack which carried it way beyond its initial $67 million opening.
Final Expectations: “Maleficent” will slay “Snow White and the Huntsman” with a first weekend up to $60 million but likely will not enjoy the long box office legs that made “Frozen” such a massive hit.
At the other end of the spectrum from “Maleficent’s” female-oriented family-friendly fairy tale is Seth MacFarlane’s R-rated “Million Ways,” packed with his trademark brand of low-brow, edgy humor. While MacFarlane’s “Ted” was a runaway success, social numbers suggest “Million Ways” will again be popular among MacFarlane’s core fans, but doesn’t look to have the same breakout potential.
YouTube trailer views are often a useful indicator of widespread awareness and Buzz indicates whether the trailer is resonating with viewers. Here “Million Ways” has 15 million trailer views, which is less than half of frat-versus-family comedy “Neighbors'” 34 million, but it has a Buzz score of 0.50%, well above average and looking good versus “Neighbors'” 0.32%. This suggests the trailer has been viewed and received very well by MacFarlane’s sizeable core of fans, if not managing to break out into wider audiences.
“Ted” was always going to be a hard act to follow after the foul-mouthed bear made $54 million on opening, building off 200,000 tweets and 237,000 searches. “Neighbors” recently surprised with a massive $49 million on 218,000 searches and 140,000 appeal. Both titles were strong on Twitter suggesting wide awareness and interest. “Million Ways” is shaping up at about half the size on search with 107,000, suggesting a launch that comes in at half of what “Neighbors” made.
Marketing has mainly targeted the “Family Guy” creator’s core audience of younger male fans, with an Uber partnership delivering fans to preview screenings, exclusive features on TheChive.com, Brobible and AskMen.com — all sites skewing male — as well as a game featured on AdultSwim.com, which brought our office to a standstill for at least half an hour, and tweets directly appealing to gamers.
The “Million Ways” Twitter feed showcased the tone of the movie, with messages taking aim at weekend competitor “Maleficent,” as well as Disney’s much-derided bomb “Lone Ranger,” an easy target if ever there was one. “A Million Ways” also experimented with a brand new Twitter feature where users can embed pre-uploaded videos into their tweets for sharing. “Million Ways” has also used Twitter to reach out to other demographics such as females (whose buy-in with Mila Kunis made “Ted” such a success) through Chelsea Lately’s audience. However, “Million Ways” will likely be most popular among MacFarlane’s younger male converts.
Final Expectations: MacFarlane’s core audience will be sold but “Million Ways” won’t be such a break out hit as “Neighbors” or “Ted”. We are projecting a solid $25 million.
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.