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Mathematicians: Advertising Budgets Can’t Predict a Movie’s Success, but Social Buzz Can

And Now For Something Completely Different

It’s commonly understood that a movie, or any product really, can sink or swim based on advertising. Too little, too much, not in the right places, or the right times, or just a ads that are misleading or poorly thought out can be pointed to afterward as evidence of Where It All Went Wrong. But a study led by Akira Ishii on the release of twenty five different movies to theaters in Japan seems to say that while advertising can help, the only direct indicator of a movie’s success isn’t how much money is spent on advertising, or even how well the campaign is pulled off.

It’s the online social media buzz surrounding the movie.

From The Hollywood Reporter:

Collecting revenue data on 25 Hollywood and local movies released in Japan, including Avatar, The Da Vinci Code, Crows Zero and Always: Sunset on Third Street 3, the group compared it with advertising spending and online activity on social networks and blogs.

“We found a direct correlation between the number of social media postings about a movie on a given day, and the number of people who intended to purchase tickets…”

“However, there was no direct relationship between the advertising spending and the purchasing intention. The timing of the advertising campaign is important though, with two weeks to ten days before opening being the optimum time,” explained the professor.

Which on the face of things seems pretty obvious: people talking publicly about a movie directly correlates to people going to see a movie, probably because they saw that movie and wanted to talk about it. The more interesting information for studios, I think, is that the money spent on an ad campaign isn’t as important as the timing of the campaign, and that embracing the online community’s ability to create social buzz might do them better overall.

But Ishii’s equation was developed to be able to predict the the success of advertised products in general, and testing it out on box office results was simply a dry run. The “Hit” Phenomenon, as it’s being called in an upcoming paper, is actually about being able to model human interactions and predict their effects. Now everybody go tweet about Brave.

(via The Hollywood Reporter.)

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