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Will YouTube Movie Marketing Replace TV?

YouTube and other social media channels could make TV buys less critical, as Millennial consumers move to over-the-top viewing. Find out why earned views on YouTube help movie marketers gain an effective cost-per-view below that of AdWords campaigns.


into woodsYouTube and other social media channels could make TV buys less critical, as Millennial consumers move to over-the-top viewing.

Strike Social, a preferred marketing developer for YouTube platforms, took a look at the YouTube presences of three recent blockbusters: Unbroken, Into the Woods and Gambler. It found that, not only did these films garner millions of YouTube views but, more important, a substantial percentage of those views were earned. The company estimates that these studios spent just $345,000 collectively to promote their trailers on YouTube. Strike Social’s platform can pull aggregate spend data, total views and total earned views, as well as separating them.


“The numbers are really impressive,” says Pat McKenna, CEO of Strike Social. During 2014, the top seven studios spent, in aggregate, $36.5 million for TrueView ads to promote film trailers and other assets that were posted to YouTube. Those paid promotions generated 1.9 billion views. According to McKenna, “They paid for 880 million views and got over a billion earned views. That’s more than a one-to-one ratio, which is off the charts.”

As consumers increasingly view over-the-top (OTT) content, could YouTube ads eat into TV and other ad budgets for movie marketing?

Changing views

According to the Motion Picture Association of America’s 2013 Theatrical Market Statistics, the prime movie-going segments are the same segments that are increasingly consuming video online, over the top and on mobile. In its latest report, the two largest groups of frequent moviegoers were 18 to 24 and 25 to 39. In 2013, Latinos made up 17 percent of the population but accounted for 32 percent of frequent moviegoers (that is, folks who went to more than one movie a month. The share of movie-going in the 18- to 24-year-old segment has been trending upward and, in 2013, was at its highest level since the MPAA survey began.

And what do we know about these groups? They over-index for mobile and they are more likely to engage in OTT viewing. According to Nielsen, Americans aged 18 to 24 watched around 2.5 hours of TV a day, a year-over-year decline of more than four hours per week.

Movie studios are on top of the YouTube trend. On the other hand, as of 2013, movie trailers and teaser videos uploaded on YouTube in 2013 had been watched 10 billion times, according to YouTube, which doesn’t have more recent stats.

Combine this demographic shift with the high ROI of promoted YouTube videos, and you might wonder whether TV spending is going to take a hit.

Gilbert Davila
Gilbert Davila

Not so fast, says Gilbert Dávila, president and CEO of Dávila Multicultural Insights. He comes down on the more traditional side, insisting, “In order to reach today’s dynamic consumer, it’s important to use a mix of traditional advertising, digital marketing and social media.” He acknowledges that You Tube marketing and other social media channels can be a great tool to generate awareness for upcoming films and help reach a younger demographic. Nevertheless, he says, “Social channels are only one component of a complete media plan — and TV remains a principal media vehicle to reach a broad audience for most major films.”

However, while movie marketers are clearly on YouTube in a big way, McKenna thinks there’s a much larger opportunity that they’re missing. He thinks it’s partly because busy marketers are doing things as usual, and partly because the media spends look different.

Efficient spends

Compared to the CPMS for AdWords of five to ten cents per thousand, TrueView ads look expensive, McKenna notes. TrueView ads are sold on a cost-per-view basis of five to 10 cents per view, with a guaranteed view. Marketers comparing five-cent CPMs to 10 cents per view may think TrueView is prohibitively expensive. But, McKenna says, “When you look at the efficiencies of the ads, it’s off the charts.”

By dividing the $36.5 million spent by 1.9 billion views, he calculates the actual effective CPV for TrueView ads is 1.9 cents.

The reason for the efficiencies of these ads, he says is, “You pay for a certain number of views, but then, if the content is good, people share it, so you get another view at no cost. The more people share a piece of content, the lower the effective CPV. This works well for the studios because, generally speaking, people like to share movie trailers.”

Before the Strike Social analysis, McKenna adds, “Even I didn’t know they were doing that well — and I’m confident that the studios don’t know.”

McKenna thinks the mindset will change as media buyers and movie marketers grok the numbers. “The education process will accelerate here, and studios will have time to take a step back [and reevaluate their methods]. Media agencies are educating the client, too. It’s hard to leave a way that you’ve been doing something for so long,” he says.

Best YouTube Marketing practices

McKenna points out that the studios that are most successful at pulling earned views are not only posting trailers; they’re posting snippets from movies, creating character stories online and releasing other bonus content. Disney, he notes, is especially masterful at this, releasing as many as 30 different videos in three to six months of promotion for a film.

Dávila shares other best practices for movie marketers: “Share content, not ads,” he says. “For the most part, YouTube users do not want to watch ads; therefore, the best way to reach potential moviegoers through YouTube is through highly creative and engaging videos.”

Each should include an accurate description and a link to a landing page designed to meet campaign goals, for example, the movie’s microsite or Facebook page. Finally, Dávila says, think multiscreen: “When releasing videos, make sure that all content is optimized for mobile viewing.”

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