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 X-Men would appear to have their work cut out for them after Marvel heroes Captain America and Spider-Man both took more than $90 million with their sequels on opening weekend this year before “Godzilla” came stomping through the middle of them both last weekend. But “Days of Future Past” is poised to blast past them all and rack up a total of $120 million over the long weekend.
Facebook numbers at 11.4 million are larger than those for “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” or “The Amazing Spider-Man 2,” showing the scale of awareness is there, and “DoFP” has also posted a YouTube view count within 2 million of “Godzilla,” with the giant lizard at 113 million. However, “DoFP” has pushed video content heavily on Facebook, where millions of views have been driven by clips and trailers, potentially putting “DoFP” way out ahead.
Search is a good indicator of older interest, and “DoFP” is tracking 10% to 17% ahead of “The Amazing Spider-Man 2″ and “Godzilla,” with 434,000 and 463,000, respectively, suggesting the X-Men have more appeal among older audiences. Content has been tailored to appeal to different audiences, with Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart put in front of older audiences doing Q&As on Yahoo Movies, whereas Tumblr and Twitter pushed celebrity and red carpet fashion updates to appeal to women.
All audiences have been exposed to the original and reboot’s ensemble cast mashup, which is the main appeal of the movie for fans both old and new. The marketing has leveraged that impressive cast by posting content on their personal profiles, none more so than Hugh Jackman, who appeals to everyone from small kids to older women, and has a personal network including 4 million Twitter and 628,000 Instagram followers. This built-in network was extended by posting Vines by influential producers like Zach King with more than 1.3 million followers.
Outside of social networks, there is the 25moments website, where the X-Men are interwoven into events that have shaped the course of history, further fleshing out the universe and satisfying more curious fans. The X-app, where users superimpose blue or red X’s from the poster campaign onto their profile pictures, has caught on among fans.
Final Expectations: “Days of Future Past” is set for the biggest opening of the year so far, with wide mainstream appeal pushing it to $120 million over the long weekend.
“Blended” is looking to scoop up audiences not interested in “Days of Future Past” and attract younger females, couples and possibly families put off by superhero violence. The online marketing has put the reunion of Sandler and Barrymore at the center of the campaign for older audiences and turned the spotlight on Disney star Bella Thorne to appeal to younger females. “Neighbors” will also still be taking some of the audiences looking for a comedy.
In an effort to mobilize her massive social presence and appeal to younger audiences, Thorne has hosted Twitter Q&As, teased the trailer on Facebook to her 8.6 million fans and Instagrammed the premiere to her 2.8 million followers. “Blended” also has a Tumblr where young females are particularly active, populated with funny shareable images and gifs.
Other cast members are also very popular on Twitter, with Sandler having 1.2 million followers, and Joel McHale with 3.4 million. A promoted trend has translated into a solid amount of chatter, around-two thirds the size of that for “The Other Woman” but dwarfed by the 218,000 for “Neighbors.”
Compared to recent comedy successes “The Other Woman” and “Neighbors,” “Blended” has around half as many video views, with less than 10 million compared to 22.3 million and 23.4 million views, respectively. “Blended” doesn’t have the wider appeal that shot “Neighbors” past a $50 million opening, as shown on search, where “Neighbors” had 140,000. As a result, it looks to open well below “The Other Woman’s” three-day total, which was just shy of $25 million, as it has a search volume short of “The Other Woman’s” 95,000.
Final Expectations: “Blended” will attract younger females and older audiences not dragged to “X-Men” and likely will break $25 million over the four-day 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.