Horizon Turns To Digital Attribution In Pursuit Of Cinema Ticket Sales

badmomsimgMedia agency Horizon Media worked with Placed, a location analytics and attribution firm, on both companies' first attempt to measure the impact of digital advertising on movie ticket sales.

Horizon Media is the longstanding media buyer for the production studio STX Entertainment. It has worked with Placed for other advertisers, “and we started having conversations wondering what we can do to close the loop in terms of getting down to actual ticket attribution,” said Erin Foxworthy, Horizon’s SVP of partnerships and innovation.

Movie theater attribution is fundamentally different than tracking in-store retail activity, because even if you correctly connect a cinemagoer to digital exposure, you still have to prove the person saw your film and not another movie playing at the same time.

Placed connected cinema visitors to an actual film through a mix of direct surveying – the company has a panel of app users who agree to location tracking and provide data on their activity – and an algorithmic model to identify viewers whose features indicate they probably saw STX’s film, "Bad Moms."

Horizon and STX’s digital media plan drove 428,000 people to theaters who otherwise wouldn’t have seen "Bad Moms," according to Placed’s cinema attribution pilot project.

“It’s about getting beyond the usual metrics studios have to actually tying it to dollars spent and ROI,” said David Shim, founder and CEO of Placed. Most studios have only overall audience numbers, since they don’t have access to theaters’ point-of-sale data.

Horizon had been judging campaign performance on a set of standard digital ad metrics like click-through rates, overall views and video engagement rates, “and it was shocking to see how uncorrelated those front-end metrics are to actual ticket sales,” Foxworthy said.

Though the attribution service is primarily about judging campaigns once they’ve finished, it’s also a potentially valuable source of ongoing data to the studio.

Big entertainment production companies like STX are highly data-driven, and they carefully study regional and demographic audiences to decide what kinds of films or shows to produce, according to Foxworthy. But studios are hobbled in the data-driven marketing milieu.

“A really difficult thing for studios right now is that they don’t own much data, without the transaction or anything identifiable,” she said.

By deploying Placed regularly to track the connection between people who viewed a trailer and then went to the movie, Horizon can start to assemble something like an owned data set.

“It’s judging the advertising effectiveness primarily,” Foxworthy said, “but it’s also a way to look back and answer whether our market research was accurate, and could possibly affect acquisition [of film rights] down the line.”

Placed’s product won’t lead to any immediate swings in STX’s media mix because “we’ll want to see results confirmed over time before we make recommendations based on the attribution,” Foxworthy said. “But I’ll say it was truly shocking to our team to see how disconnected some digital metrics have been to real-world performance.”

1 Comment

  1. Brandon

    Curious how Placed's panel of people is able to understand movie data and audiences like this with only 2M people in their panel. "Bad Moms" made $121M domestically, which is around 10M people seeing the movie ($11 per ticket). How many people in their panel really went to see this movie?!

    Reply

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