How Beeswax Brought Transparency To Legendary Entertainment’s Programmatic Strategy

Since its founding in 2000, Legendary Entertainment’s slate of 50 films has certainly lived up to its name, with a lineup that includes “The Dark Knight,” “The Hangover” trilogy and “Jurassic World.”

While these releases seem incredibly different, they all have something in common: hundreds of millions in marketing dollars, often spent within a six-week period before the release, to ensure a box office smash.

While much of that spend goes to traditional channels for trailers and billboards, digital has become a bigger consideration. The studio built an in-house analytics unit called Legendary Applied Analytics to infuse data into its marketing strategy and enable more control over its programmatic bidding strategy than typical demand-side platforms (DSPs) can provide.

“We saw a lot of challenges in terms of data and cost transparency and lacked control over the process to [buy] programmatic ads,” said Hana Cluff, VP of business integration at Legendary Applied Analytics. “We wanted control over our data, analytics and campaign spend.”

While programmatic isn’t the bulk of Legendary’s movie marketing spend, Cluff says the studio can spend up to half a million dollars programmatically to push a movie just weeks before the release. Given the burst of spend, even a small percentage of savings from, say, adjusting bids in real time can really help the bottom line.

But after working with a handful of big-name DSPs, Legendary found that most are nontransparent about how they optimize bids. Because they’re bidding for hundreds of clients on thousands of impressions at once, it’s difficult for a DSP to determine why a client won or lost a specific auction, said Ari Paparo, CEO at Beeswax.

“Giving each customer a view into what they lost is a very difficult technical problem for them,” he said. “But it gives you the opportunity to explore inventory you might not be able to intelligently bid on.”

Beeswax’s bidder-as-a-service solution, which allows clients to optimize bids against custom algorithms and offers insights back at the bidstream and auction level, seemed to Legendary like a solution that would offer it more control over its programmatic spend. With unfiltered data, Legendary can get much deeper insight into why it did or didn’t win an auction than it could with a DSP, which provides aggregate mid- and post-campaign reports, Cluff said.

“We can ingest billions of data points, score it and do all kind of analyses against the cycle,” Cluff said.

For the release of “Kong: Skull Island,” Legendary built custom machine-learning algorithms on top of Beeswax’s bidder that optimize toward its goals at different points of the campaign cycle, whether those are awareness, engagement or conversion. By integrating its proprietary analytics platform with Beeswax’s bidder, the movie studio could process billions of rows of bid-level data in real time to measure all impressions served throughout the campaign.

Through the integration, Legendary was able to turn its predicted engagement for each targeted individual into a dollar amount so it could quickly focus on high-value customers. Throughout the campaign, Legendary reduced costs, saw an 8% increase in engagement and decreased its average CPM by 50% over historical averages.

The program led to a marketing campaign that helped “Kong: Skull Island” outperform industry expectations by 30%.

“Once we had control over the campaign process, we could direct it in real time,” Cluff said. “It feels like we can do less and actually focus on quality impressions. If we want to spend a premium, we can spend on things that matter.”

But for Legendary, the real benefit of working with a solution like Beeswax is its ability to regain control over its programmatic spend.

“The point is, we just know,” Cluff said. “We know how much we’re spending and we can almost name our price.”

Legendary is, however, a sophisticated client. The studio launched its applied analytics unit about four years ago to infuse its marketing department with data and analytics expertise, which involved sourcing data partnerships, building an analytics platform and acquiring data scientists.

Many clients don’t have those capabilities in-house. To make its solution more accessible, Beeswax launched the Beeswax Programmatic Cloud on Wednesday, which lets a group of vendors create custom algorithms for clients through a simple integration with its bidder.

Beeswax clients using the programmatic cloud can turn on an integration with Metamarkets for campaign reporting at the auction and bid level, receive deep-learning algorithms from Cognitiv, integrate straight into the header with RTK.io and turn on dynamic creative optimization with Spongecell, without needing to write the code themselves.

“We’re making it a checkbox integration,” Paparo said. “We just turn it on and you don’t have to provide code. A company like Cognitiv can execute a bespoke algorithm for our customers and change the way the bidder operates.”

So far, 15% of Beeswax’s clients are using integrations from the programmatic cloud.

“We have customers who have great deal of knowledge and expertise in programmatic, but can’t necessarily spin up an engineering team to write custom code,” Paparo said. “We’re enabling them, without the customer doing work, to create the end solution.

 

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