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Useful Insight for Indies from Google's Whitepaper on Theatrical Release Search Data

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by Zack Coffman
June 24, 2013 1:30 PM
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Jennifer Prince
Jennifer Prince

In an effort to understand the ever complex confluence of content and commerce that is the movie business I attended my second Massive Advertising Summit presented by Variety; always a good event featuring the captains of industry in media marketing.  I'd heard that Google was releasing a white paper about the correlation between search traffic, trailers, and box office results so I wanted to get the information straight from the source.  Jennifer Prince , Google's Head of Industry, Media & Entertainment was a headliner at the event and gave a nice presentation of her findings along with a Q&A led by Gordon Paddison of Stradella Road.

The entire whitepaper is available here, but I will summarize some of my favorite bits and hopefully it will underline the importance not only of savvy paid search leading up to a film's launch but also remind that SEO techniques (search engine optimization) are even more crucial than ever for the independent filmmaker/distributor.  It's important to state that this paper, while using real research to explore its premise, wouldn't be much of a whitepaper if it wasn't also a great marketing tool for Google's search products.

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Titled "Quantifying Movie Magic with Google Search June 2013", the report was drafted primarily by Reggie Panaligan, Sr. Analytical Lead, Google, Media & Entertainment.  Panaligan states, "In this paper, we will discuss how search query patterns and paid clicks can help us in the quest to quantify ‘movie magic,’ and ultimately predict box office performance."  Here's some of the points I found most interesting, with my comments in italics:

·      On average, moviegoers consult 13 sources before they make a decision about what movie to see.

For indies it's important to hit as many blogs and social networks as possible.  You need to "touch" your potential viewer 13 times!

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·      Trailer-related search trends four weeks out from a movie release provide strong predictive power for opening weekend box office revenue.

·      Trailers remain one of the most influential sources throughout the decision process to see a movie. In fact, we found that trailers are the most searched for category of information upon discovery of a new film.

·      Trailer searches, whether on Google or YouTube, signify strong intent -- searchers are actively seeking a sample of the film. Thus, it’s no surprise that trailer-related search query volume holds strong predictive power. But when is this ‘power’ at its strongest?  In a recent survey, we found that most moviegoers learn about a film four weeks in advance, often in conjunction with a major trailer drop or beginning of a major video ad campaign.

·      So what does this mean for movie marketers? The availability of content, specifically trailers, is important for moviegoers at all stages of the decision process.  Earlier searches four weeks from release week for a film have the strongest link to intent despite a lower overall search volume, presumably because the most ardent fans are among the first to search for specific film’s content.

I was happy to see this much attention being paid to trailers because it's one of the areas that indies can really make an impact with minimal dollars.  A compelling trailer done with smart SEO can go right up against the big boys by getting found in all the right places as well as being picked up by more mainstream blogs and YouTube networks specializing in trailers.  Make a strong trailer and "officially" release it one month out.  An effective teaser trailer can start building early awareness for your film, but have something awesome and NEW to show one month before you release the film.

·      Since 48% of moviegoers decide what film to watch the day they purchase their ticket, it’s important to have a continued search presence through opening weekend and beyond.

Save your pennies and nickels to ramp up long-tail search keyword advertising on weekends to snatch up anyone who might be considering a film rental or download.

·     Additionally, during traditionally slow periods in the box office, generic non-title keywords over-index, signaling moviegoers’ (a) general curiosity and lesser awareness of films being released during this period, and (b) broadening of their consideration set to include multiple titles.

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·      For film marketers, understanding these patterns can present a substantial opportunity. By adjusting search marketing strategies to these trends, marketers can either capture the attention of the “curious” moviegoer.

This might be the most telling detail of all for indies.  It's important to look at the studios' release patterns and launch your film during a quiet time in the schedule.  Trying to go up against Game of Thrones on Sunday night isn't so easy (unless you counter-program), but when it's done for the summer you might be able to sneak in there.

Written by Zack Coffman, Head of Content, Distribution, & Strategy at One World Studios Ltd.  He is an award-winning producer specializing in online strategy and monetization, live streaming, and YouTube channel developmentConnect with Zack on LinkedIn, Google+, and @choppertown.

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