Category Archives: Movie Marketing

It’s not Tweets that impact box-office, it’s word-of-mouth

A new study has been released that shows just how much a tweet about a movie impacts the box-office results for that movie, according to Variety.

According to the study, the value of a Tweet on box-office is highest about a month out from release, around the same time serious advertising kicks in though obviously well after the release of the first trailer and other assets. The closer to the actual release date, the less it’s worth since, presumably, people are making longer-term decisions about what movies to see. And the farther out from release, the less other press there’s been about the movie, press which isn’t always positive.


There are other factors – the sentiment of the Tweet obviously matters, as does a statement of intent or call to action, and things will vary from genre to genre. And there’s a common sense conclusion in the story about how the buzz that’s happening in the sweet spot identified here can help studios project box-office a bit.

Also of note in the story is the admission that each Tweet isn’t just a thing in and of itself. The people doing the research also gave it a value beyond the one person since it’s assumed, that opinion is shared by X number of people who haven’t spoken up themselves. What that multiplier might be isn’t stated outright, unfortunately.

As always with stories like this, though, the thing that comes to mind is that the focus is too firm on Twitter or other social platforms. So what’s labeled here as “Twitter buzz” or something similar is actually word-of-mouth. It’s people recommending a movie (or whatever else we might be discussing) to the people they know and who know them. And as study after study points out, people put a lot of value on what the people they know have to say and what they value.

That’s true of just about everything and is incredibly important to remember whenever discussing social media. Twitter, Facebook and other networks are just tools that facilitate the spread of word-of-mouth, which is often peer-to-peer in nature. They change the scale at which that happens, absolutely. But they usually don’t change the fundamental nature of the recommendations that are happening.

So when we talk about “how much is a Tweet worth” in regards to movie box-office, computer sales or anything else, keep in mind that this is all about word-of-mouth. Word-of-mouth that’s scaled, sure, but it’s still just that.

Salesforce looks at 2015 marketing priorities

According to Salesforce’s “State of Marketing 2015” report (as recapped by Adweek) 70% of marketers are both planning to increase their paid social media marketing and their unpaid social media marketing in 2015. As Salesforce VP Jeff Rohrs points out in the story, the parity in those plans represents an acknowledgement that the unpaid content publishing is important both in its own right and as a support for those paid efforts.


That’s good – very good in fact – but I’m actually more interested in a couple other other similar data points.

According to the report 66% of respondents 1) Believe social media is core to their business and 2) Have a dedicated social media team.

Now I’m not naive enough to think those two groups overlap completely, but I’m betting if you mapped them on a Venn diagram there would be plenty of common ground. After all, if you hold something to be important you devote the appropriate resources toward it.

The study doesn’t break out whether those teams are internal or are at an agency, which is an extra layer of detail I’d be interested to see since it speaks to internal knowledge, whether that’s knowledge to handle it themselves or to know when they need to call in subject matter experts.

There’s more breakdown of the findings of the study here at MarketingCharts. Specifically looking at digital/social numbers there’s some interesting stuff here.

Unsurprisingly email marketing, social advertising and social media listening are listed among the most effective tactics. The latter is especially important since it’s what companies can use for customer insights on an ongoing basis as well as as a first-alert system for current or potential crises. Email also isn’t a big surprise since it comes with all sorts of data acquisition benefits, something companies are eager to tap into and which is largely lost on social media. To that end it’s called out later as an important direct-revenue channel as opposed to on that’s more about discovery/awareness.

Among the least effective tactics called out is blogging, which is surprising. But here I’m going to guess that it ranks thusly because so few people understand how to do it well and don’t know how to draw a direct connection between what’s published on-domain and any form of conversion goal.

What’s disappointing – and which goes back to my point about many people not being able to do it well – is that social media lags in perceived ROI. Only 29% see it as producing significant ROI, though at least the study calls out that many people understand it has an important indirect role to play in that equation. So, as has been stated before, a Tweet may not always lead directly to a sale but when you string a week’s worth of Tweets together on a topic it may lead to a conversion somewhere else. In other words, people may not click through from the Tweet to buy it, but after hearing enough about it they’ll remember to go to Amazon and buy it.

The Internet Rewards The Meanest Person Most

I’ve been reading this post by Sam Biddle at Gawker over and over and it never stops being extremely odd. Biddle is, a year after the fact, looking back at the storm he in part caused around a tweet by PR practitioner Justine Sacco. Sacco, you may remember, tweeted something horribly inappropriate before getting on a plane to South Africa, a tweet that Biddle and others picked up. Over the course of her flight, then, everyone watched and waited for her to land and face the consequences – which eventually included her being fired – of what she said.

The point of the post is, as some have described, a “mea culpa” for his role in the affair and he recounts his meeting Sacco for drinks and such to apologize in person. But here’s the key graf that I keep struggling with:

It was a natural post. Twitter disasters are the quickest source of outrage, and outrage is traffic. I didn’t think about whether or not I might be ruining Sacco’s life. The tweet was a bad tweet, and seeing it would make people feel good and angry—a simple social and emotional transaction that had happened before and would happen again and again. The minimal post set off a 48-hour paroxysm of fury, an eruption of internet vindictiveness.

“It was a natural post.” That right there is what I keep getting hung up on. “It was a natural post.” “I didn’t think about whether or not I might be ruining Sacco’s life.”

Why? Why aren’t we thinking of how something may or may not be ruining someone’s life *before* we publish? Even aside from that, why aren’t we thinking about the implications of what we do before we hit the Publish button?

What Biddle never fully addresses, as least not to my satisfaction, is why Sacco’s tweet was news? What was the value in bringing its existence to the awareness of people beyond those following her? “The tweet was a bad tweet” is a low journalistic bar to clear.

And if we’re not able to adequately answer the question of the tweet’s journalistic value then all that remains to justify Biddle’s post is that it was meant to fill the outrage vacuum, the gaping maw that exists solely to let people righteously wag their fingers at people who have stepped out of line. Biddle cops to this by saying “…outrage is traffic.” Which translates in internet-speak to “…outrage is ad revenue.”

So Sacco was vilified for page views. That’s the ultimate diviner of what is or isn’t news in the current age. And it means that anyone can be the next one sold out and publicly humiliated to the point they lose their jobs and have an otherwise promising career ruined.

I don’t mean to blame Biddle entirely, though he certainly played a large role in the story that unfolded last year. It was horrifying to watch all sorts of people, including those who masquerade as “thought leaders” in the social media PR industry, watch and crack jokes as they waited for Sacco to land. It’s easy to imagine them eagerly chomping on some popcorn as they awaited the inevitable realization on her part of what she had done and what the reaction to it had grown to be. That, more than anything, was what was truly disgusting to me.

It’s good that Biddle wants to reevaluate his decision, though he never fully does that. And I feel for him, just as I do for anyone who gets caught in the maelstrom, as he got pulled into his own controversy involving the Gamergate fiasco through, of course, an absent-minded and misunderstood tweet. But second thoughts need to be had *before* something gets published. Yes, that’s hard. It slows things down and involves someone looking at the big picture and whether or not a piece meets some sort of standard of quality. That’s what journalism is, though. And that’s what’s sorely missing from the instant-publishing, go for the outrage media industrial complex.

Social media buzz can (kind of) predict box office

Twitter has analyzed a whole mess of data about what people are saying there about movies to see what it says about what movies are going to be popular at the box office.


Among the interesting data points in the post are that, according to Twitter, people have somewhere around 200,000 movie-related conversations daily.

Now here’s where it gets interesting: According to the data the movies generating the most tweets in October were Annabelle, Gone Girl, Dracula Untold, The Judge and Fury. But here’s the top five movies from October:

  1. Gone Girl
  2. Annabelle
  3. Fury
  4. Alexander and the Terrible…
  5. Dracula Untold

That’s actually a pretty close overlap, with 80% of Twitter’s list also showing up on the box office list. But let’s talk for a minute about that remaining 20%…

The Judge is exactly the kind of movie that you can see people talking about. It had a high-profile cast, there were lots of ads and other marketing running in regular rotation and generally lots of things for people to talk about. But for whatever reasons (a critical drubbing may have something to do with it) it flopped pretty badly, especially given the caliber of the cast.

Alexander and the Terrible… on the other hand is just the kind of movie no one is going to be “buzzing” about. A seemingly gentle PG-rated family comedy with some people you kind of like in the cast, there weren’t a whole lot of points for conversations to latch on to with the exception of a very short story being turned into a 1:21 movie.

That means that just as you might think social media may be a great way to predict box-office (or any other kind of) success, there’s still a fair helping of guess work in there. Or at least it can’t be the *only* thing used. There needs to be other work that’s put into making predictions and prognostications.

It can’t go without saying that this post – and the data that’s shared in it – is aimed fairly obviously at movie studios and marketers as a way to encourage them to get more of their talent to participate in Twitter chats, get the studios themselves more active in promoting movies and encouraging conversations and, of course, spending money on promoted posts to help spur those conversations.

But just because it’s obvious doesn’t mean it’s a bad idea. There’s obviously, at least based on this, a case to be made for that kind of participation. And there are plenty of other reasons why it’s a good idea. It just means that 1 (social media participation + 1 (social media conversation) doesn’t always equal 2 (box office success). There are factors that go beyond that simple equation, just as there always are.

On LinkedIn: What’s the right time to jump into a new social network?

This post originally was published on LinkedIn here.

A couple weekends ago Snapchat introduced advertising to the messaging app, with Universal Pictures running ads for their horror movie Ouija. In the wake of the ad Marc Graser at Variety points out there are a lot of questions still to be answered about the effectiveness of Snapchat as a marketing or advertising platform, least of which is the lack of actual metrics (at least those that are being shared publicly) from the campaign.

But there’s a bigger related question that is common to the social media industry: How soon after a new app/site launches or becomes popular should brands jump in? This has come up time and time again, though recently with the launch of things like Ello, Facebook Rooms and…well…just about everything else that’s received the slightest bit of press and “influencer” attention.

There seem to be three primary schools of thought:

“OMG SHINY!” These are the people who are eager to see the brands they work for/with heralded in the tech press as being first movers. As soon as something launches they’re right there, regardless of how little is known about the audience there (which is likely to be negligible) or what a long-term strategy might be.

“Let’s wait and see.” These people prefer a more cautious approach, waiting until they’re more sure that the network isn’t just a flash in the pan, when there’s a bit more information about the audience make-up and when they can figure out how to sustainably create content that’s unique to that network, or at least is presented in a more interesting way for that network.

“Why do brands even need to be there?” My favorite type of skeptic (though usually I personally fall into the second category), these are the people who, when asked what the brand strategy for a network should be usually counter with “Well why do we need to be there in the first place?”

The one thing the latter two types have in common is that, above and beyond any brand-centric considerations, they want to make sure that the burgeoning community is not unduly interrupted or interfered with because a brand wants to jump in and promote their products, their blog posts etc. They want to make sure there’s a good reason for brand participation in a way that’s not only good for the brand but is respectful of the people there.


Trailers not the most-shared movie marketing videos

800px-Movie_Trailer_Preview_ScreenI think I speak for everyone when I say I’m a little shocked that trailers aren’t the most frequently shared form of movie content. That comes from a study done by UK advertising firm Unruly Media.

So what is? Funny stuff and music videos.

The study showed the people who watched those other forms of video content (presumably after having it shared with them by a friend) were much more likely to wind up buying a ticket than if they just watched a trailer.

The lesson is remarkably simple and applies to just about all marketing: Don’t be boring. Material that defies expectations is going to not only cut through the clutter more often but also resonate more strongly and create more affinity.

That’s why you see more and more actual marketing and advertising trying to mimic the sort of videos that get passed around from person to person. They want their stuff to be shared and have found a way to do it.

It’s because movie trailers are commercials that they need critical reading

Samuel Adams and IndieWire has shared some thoughts he has about movie trailers. The cause for this particular editorial is the overly enthusiastic reaction by some people to the trailer for Inherent Vice, the upcoming movie from director Paul Thomas Anderson. Here’s Adams’ thesis statement:

Trailers ruin movies. Or, if “ruin” is too strong a word, they lessen the experience of watching them, the way it would if some blabbermouth friend told you a film’s plot in advance. Some trailers are more subtle about it than others, but even the best pull enticing moments out of their original context and serve them up in an appealing stew. If the trailer is a good one — by which I mean one that successfully stokes your desire to see a movie — those moments remain lodged in the back of your mind, and you can’t help but anticipate them. 

Now to be clear, I get where he’s coming from. Even if a trailer doesn’t spoil some sort of big surprise or lay the movie out in such broad strokes that it shows the major beats from all three acts of a movie what they contain can be considered spoilers or, at worst, unwanted glimpses at the movie.


But what he’s talking about are many of the reasons why I started writing Movie Marketing Madness all those years ago. Too many people – people who were aspiring to the role of film journalist in some manner – were just posting a trailer and saying “OMG this looks awesome” without any critical thinking behind it. What I was more interested in doing was looking at *why* the trailer was doing what it was doing.

It’s understandable that Adams is frustrated by the piling on of fanboy enthusiasm every time there’s a halfway decent trailer released. As he said, most of the time the only impact it could have is to make someone who’s already aware of and excited about a movie want to see it less. And the gushing is embarrassing to watch for anyone with a modicum of self-respect or journalistic integrity, though I’ll admit that my criticism has sometimes been swept away in a wave of “SHUT UP AND TAKE MY MONEY” excitement over how good a trailer makes the movie look.

To that end my recommendation is Adams and people like him start looking at trailers through a different lens. Yes, they are often to designed to either appeal to the elite few in a niche target audience (Inherent Vice, Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World) or a mass audience that includes the kind of people some snooty film journalists deride as mouth-breathers and who need everything laid out for them before they opt to shell out their money. The question to ask then is “Why.” Then trailers become much more interesting not for what they are but why they are that way.

It’s because there’s so much media being produced – both the promotional stuff and all the outlets that are more than happy to share it (with gusto because they want to keep the publicity pipeline flowing) that we need to turn a more critical eye to what we’re being sold. I understand where Adams is coming from. But the next step is just as important.