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.
After a weekend where competitors ran for cover under the onslaught of “Captain America: The Winter Soldier,” three movies launch this weekend aiming to draw attention from beyond the young male audience. “Rio 2” arrives three years after the original which opened to $39.2 million and social data suggests this sequel is set for a strong performance.
“Rio 2” will be looking to appeal specifically to family audiences, and that dictates using marketing platforms in a different way. While a large TV presence is intended to garner interest from kids not old enough for “Captain America’s” red white and blue bluster, the digital campaign has been mainly geared toward convincing adults, with a strong focus on the voice cast and musicians featuring on the film’s soundtrack, such as Bruno Mars and Janelle Monae. Marketing has also reached out to the Latino audience by playing on the South American setting of the movie, re-tweeting Spanish and Portuguese language accounts and Facebook featuring a crash-course in Portuguese with the “Rio” characters.
But how does “Rio 2” match up against this year’s other family movies? “The Lego Movie” currently stands atop the list of 2014’s biggest grosses (surely to be toppled by “The Winter Soldier” in coming weeks), while “Mr. Peabody and Sherman” is in fifth. Social stats suggest “Rio 2” should be able to force its way in between the two.
“Rio 2” bows with over 20 million video views, 86,900 Tweets and 73,100 searches, so it will likely start stronger than “Peabody,” which opened to $32 million, had 15 million views, 28,000 Tweets and 56,000 searches. However, as the year’s standout movie so far “Lego” debuted with much stronger stats with 34.4 million trailer views, 98,000 Tweets and 107,000 searches. Similarly, “Rio 2’s” Buzz rate on YouTube also falls squarely in between the two films with “Peabody” on the lower end at 0.24% and “Lego” at a strong 0.59% at release.
“Rio 2” is miles ahead in terms of fan count, but this is thanks to taking over the existing fan page for “Rio.” However a 14% PTAT indicates over 1 million currently engaged fans is very positive and far ahead of “Peabody” or “Lego” on release, suggesting the fans who made the first movie a success will be turning out again.
Final Expectations: “Rio 2’s” stats suggest it will be soaring to a high total on opening weekend.
Relativity’s “Oculus” is the latest low-budget release from Blumhouse, the producers of “The Purge,” “Insidious” and the “Paranormal Activity” series, in conjunction with WWE Studios, which has supported the movie using its TV shows and “WrestleMania 30” PPV, as well as hosting screenings introduced by WWE superstars.
With “Winter Soldier” and “Rio 2” commanding much of the media attention, “Oculus” is aimed squarely at genre fans, which make horror movies such a success, particularly young females.
The official Twitter account has been re-tweeting messages from the cast, and positive reactions from fans and critics — it re-tweeted Stephen King’s praise of the film, for example. Thanks to establishing the hashtag #seeyourevil “Oculus” has solid Twitter numbers, a promising sign for a horror movie. These have been boosted with help from the MTV and “Teen Wolf” Twitter accounts, among others, which featured contests where fans could tweet to decide what evil acts the “Oculus” mirror would cause stars to do. The MTV website has also featured exclusive “Oculus” clips.
The Facebook page has employed a similar tactic, but focussed mainly on featuring positive reviews and catchy pull-quotes from critics. While the Facebook fan base for the film is small, more than half of the audience is engaged which suggests there is a core audience of fans interested in the title. “Oculus” gains even more Internet points for casting “Dr. Who” and “Guardians of the Galaxy’s” Karen Gillan as well as Katee Sackhoff from “Battlestar Galactica” and “Riddick,” who both hosted Reddit AMAs to cash in on their genre credibility.
“Oculus” doesn’t get a boost from having the “Paranormal Activity” title, and won’t be able to approach “The Marked Ones'” $18 million opening from January this year. “Sinister,” from the same producers, also opened to $18 million, with comparable Facebook numbers but higher YouTube views, 195,000 tweets and 204,000 searches. However “Oculus” stacks up well next to “Devil’s Due,” which had its stats significantly boosted by a viral video dropped during release week.
Ignoring the boost brought on by the video, “Oculus” and “Devil’s Due” have very similar stats on release, with around 5 million trailer views, a similar Buzz rate and approximately 80,000 searches. However, “Oculus” likely had a smaller marketing budget and with stats similar to “Devil’s Due,” it should be able to outperform “Devil’s Due” on opening weekend.
Final Expectations: “Oculus” isn’t looking like a surprise breakout hit but should play well with the horror crowd.
“Draft Day” is also made for a specific audience, based on the second-most important day in the football season and produced in conjunction with the NFL. Starring Kevin Costner, the sports-drama is clearly aimed at older males, but will have to compete with both “Winter Soldier” and “Noah.”
“Draft Day” is concentrating its efforts on the sports audience most likely to turn out and see the movie, with both the Twitter and Facebook pages featuring reactions from football fans who have seen the movie in early screens — both former and current NFL stars and from other sporting legends like Mike Tyson. Former linebacker-turned-actor Terry Crews also stars in the movie alongside Costner, which should help give it credibility. “Draft Day” has implemented a custom timeline on Twitter to showcase positive reactions from screenings and the official website has an entire section dedicated to pull quotes.
Costner’s last movie, “3 Days to Kill,” took in $12 million on its first weekend, but “Draft Day” is shaping up more positively on social, with 41,000 searches to “3 Days'” 28,000 and considerably more than “3 Days'” 10,000 tweets. “Draft Day” doesn’t have enormous numbers but engagement is very high showing the campaign has reached its core target audience: Facebook PTAT is very strong with nearly the whole fan base activated and Twitter engagement is also running high. However low search volume suggests there is little awareness outside “Draft Day’s” core target group so it will need a consistent offensive drive to threaten “Moneyball’s” $19.5 million opening.
Final Expectations: “Draft Day” has a large core of sports-loving followers but will likely be second or third pick among the wider audience.
Tobias Bauckhage (@tbauckhage) is co-founder and CEO of 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.
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.