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July 18, 2013

Here’s what Google can teach us about one of the past decade’s most significant changes in film marketing and promotion: Anticipation campaigns.

Google Search Volumes for Domestic Film Sales Related Keywords

The relative search volume (in the United States) of the search term MOVIE RELEASE DATE has shot up by about 3x since 2009 (the blue line), whereas the relative search volume of BUY MOVIE TICKETS has remained fairly steady (the red line). (Note: Google normalizes the numbers so that they represent a specific term’s search volume relative to total Google search volume, so this accounts for Google’s own growth).

Now, of course, the red line might be affected by the growth of websites like Fandango that might have “stolen” traffic from Google, but the important graph here is the blue one: people are becoming significantly more intrigued by promotion campaigns for movies that are still far from release. Just like in the movie “Inception”, the idea is planted in their minds and marinates there for a few months.

But why did this happen?

The first reason is that the industry’s marketing teams took their time but finally, somewhere in 2009, they realized the potential of social networks and their ability to exponentially grow buzz over time.

But I believe another reason is that moviegoers are overwhelmed by the growing number of weekly releases competing for their attention – more specifically, blockbusters.

Ten years ago, it was enough to throw $150M at a production to make it a “must see”. But once all the studios learned that trick, we started being bombarded with too many of those mega movies, “The Lone Ranger” being the most recent victim of this inflation.

The result is that the concept of spontaneous ticket buying has taken a hit. I know from my own experience that I rarely just go to the cinema to see whatever is playing. I now have a checklist of movies I want to see ever since their first trailer was released over six months ago. And the longer a movie is on that queue, the higher it climbs up the list, making the chances of it actually being watched and paid for at the box office, higher.

I didn’t have such a checklist in 2005. Did you?

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