When people discuss "building brands," they are usually thinking about a long-term process, that for a new product involves shifting the consumer through the various stages of the purchase funnel: building awareness, influencing attitudes, developing favorability, fostering purchase intent, and ultimately building preference for the product or service. The end goal of all of which is to drive sales. This is a process that may play out over years.
In the entertainment industry, where the “new product” is often a movie or television show with a specific release date and limited window to grad attention, you may think standard brand-building logic doesn’t apply. But you’d be wrong. Effective brand advertising is critical in this industry; it just needs to happen in an extremely rapid manner. Entertainment companies’ advertising needs to very quickly 1) create awareness of the product and 2) drive people to attend a movie opening or tune-in to a television show. Technology exists in the online medium that allows entertainment advertisers to measure and optimize these key Brand Lift metrics, awareness and intent, and the resulting attendance (increased sales) in real-time so that the branding plays out in hours and days, not months or years. And real-time access to this information allows them not only to drive lift in these objectives against their target audience, but also to leverage the learning developed in the online medium to inform offline advertising. Both publishers and advertisers can take advantage of this technology, as the following two examples illustrate.
When Disney / Touchstone Pictures began promoting a new theatrical comedy, Flixster, the largest movie community on the web (recently sold to Warner Brothers), wanted to prove just how effective the site could be at both raising the intent of moviegoers to attend the movie and driving attendance to the opening weekend. Flixster knew its site had quickly become a prime channel through which to promote a new wide release movie, but lacked the hard metrics needed to show advertisers its true potential.
Speaking of hard metrics, what about click-through rates? While appropriate for measuring the effectiveness of direct response advertising, the CTR is irrelevant to brand advertising, and quite often misleading. And while various measurements of "engagement" provide interesting progress metrics, the performance metrics advertisers are looking for are those related to brand lift: awareness, attitudes, favorability, purchase intent, and preference.
Flixster used technology to measure and optimize the attitudinal shifts generated from online advertising for the film in real-time, using a classic control and exposed methodology that examines the differences in perception between consumers who had been exposed to the advertising, and those who had not. What it found was that certain media channels over-indexed on message reception and others underperformed. They also found out that a movie trailer was the most effective creative. So they shifted messaging into the more productive media (which had the net effective of lowering their overall media costs) and increased the use of the trailer. The effects of these optimizations were then tested after the opening weekend by surveying consumers again to determine the lift in attendance for the premier. With this approach, Flixster was able to generate and demonstrate impressive results for Disney / Touchstone pictures:
- A 18% decrease in consumers who responded “I’ve never heard of this film”
- A 68.6% lift in consumers’ intent to see the film
- A 30% lift in attendance as measured during the week following the opening
A&E Television Networks got similar results in driving tune in for a new show. Their agency partner Horizon Media knew that online advertising was an effective and impactful way to reach their target audience and get viewers to tune in, but wanted to prove online’s brand-building effectiveness. As with any brand advertising, click-through rates were irrelevant. Horizon therefore used a similar brand-centric survey method to quantify the impact of the four-day, multi-million impression campaign on consumers’ intent to watch the series premiere, and ran a follow up campaign to measure actual viewership. As a result Horizon Media was able to show A&E:
- A 40.7% increase in intent to watch the new show amongst those who were exposed to the campaign over those who were not
- Those that were exposed to the campaign were 13.1% more likely to actually tune in during the series premiere over those who were not
- The best performing creative unit, video, for A&E to leverage in future campaigns and to build institutional best practices around
By all measures, the show and its advertising campaign were a resounding success -the first episode of the show attracted 2.25 million viewers—winning its time slot among the coveted 18-49 audience.
Successful online brand advertising in the entertainment industry needs to be measured and optimized using the same purchase funnel metrics – particularly awareness and intent – as brand advertisers use in any other industry. It just needs to happen much, much faster. With millions of dollars spent to promote new movie openings and television programs, and a short window in which to influence consumer opinion, real-time data on the performance of the advertising, and the key elements driving its impact (or lack there-of) is critical. In the absence of this key data, millions of dollars can be wasted because advertisers are spending in the wrong places or on the wrong creative executions. The good news, however, is that technology now exists that allows entertainment advertisers and their partners in the digital media ecosystem to maximize the brand building benefit of advertising in real-time, ultimately increasing attendance or viewership and ensuring they maximize the return from every dollar invested. And in these economic times, every dollar matters – even in Hollywood.