Online Ads Can Boost Box Office Sales

The smell of fresh, buttered popcorn. The sound your shoes make as you peel them off the floor. The audience’s energy as the lights dim. No, there’s nothing quite like going to the movies.

Why people choose to sequester themselves in a crowded theater for two hours or more is no great mystery. Even as services such as Netflix, DIRECTV, and TiVo boast a growing number of subscribers, nothing compares with sharing the laughter generated by a great in-theater comedy or seeing a much-anticipated action flick on the big screen.

How people choose which films to see, however, is decidedly more enigmatic. Certainly genre preferences play a part, but increasingly it’s the trailers people see online that influence their decisions.

A recent Dynamic Logic study, using the company’s MarketNorms database, reveals “online movie ads perform among one of the highest industries in positively raising aided brand awareness (+9.8) and brand favorability (+4.3) on average.” The ads’ effect on awareness and purchase intent was found to be highest four weeks prior to the movie release date.

Dynamic Logic views film ad campaigns as two-stage affairs. When first launched, a campaign generates buzz by informing consumers of the film and providing entertainment. In this stage, rich media ads are highly popular and effective. About two thirds of movie ads are rich media units, the study says. These outperform standard animated ads by an average 20 percent.

A campaign’s second phase occurs closer to the release date and involves competing against other films for ticket purchases. At this point, people are much more aware of their choices and are making final decisions on which films to see. They’re also now influenced by external sources, such as movie reviews from third-party critics. This makes controlling the way ads affect audiences more difficult.

Dynamic Logic recommends movie marketers tasked with online media buying follow several guidelines: leverage the buzz factor to generate early awareness; produce creative ad content; utilize rich media; and advertise on the weekends. When it comes to filling those seats, I have a couple tips of my own.

Encourage Interactivity

Rich media ads allow Internet users to view theater-style movie trailers on the Web. But they don’t encourage much interactivity with the brand image embodied by that film. Since engaging audiences in a film concept and movie plot can lead to increased interest, lack of interactivity can translate into a missed opportunity online.

The solution is interactive games, content-filled microsites, and viral features specifically crafted to immerse audiences in an upcoming flick before it hits the theaters. All three were employed by Warner Brothers last year to promote “The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants.” The result was an absorbing online campaign that generated both awareness and interest in the teen film.

Offer Something Original

Avid (and even occasional) moviegoers are all but guaranteed to see trailers for new films in-theater. Film studios tend to attach to feature films coming attractions that will appeal to a similar audience or demographic group. Many consumers are already be familiar with the movies they’re interested in by the time they come across the corresponding online ads. Movie marketers advertising online should offer trailers and ads that differ from what’s shown in theaters at the time. By presenting ad content that’s new and unique, they increase their chances of generating consumer interest on a broad level.

Given its ability to attract entertainment-minded consumers, the Web represents an ideal medium through which to promote movies in an entertaining way. Employ rich media and engaging, creative ad content, and you can greatly increase the odds that consumers’ eyes will be on your movie when the lights go down.

Meet Tessa at Search Engine Strategies in New York City, February 27-March 2.

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