Most newsworthy events only happen once. Especially in the age of the internet.
Once something happens and news of it gets out, that’s it. It’s out. Which is why the staggered release of 20th Century Fox’s “Assassin’s Creed” movie is an interesting opportunity for those with a curious mind. In the case of Assassin’s Creed, the same event, the movie’s theatrical premiere, occurred multiple times in different geographic regions. This offers an interesting situation in which the brand, the product, and the event are equal across multiple occurrences of the same event. Those elements are constant, and the other variables present at each event can be compared for effects. If this is starting to sound like statistics and science, that’s because it is. What we have here is an opportunity to treat the event itself as a control variable and build an understanding of how the other aspects of a release relate to each other and contribute to its relative success.
In the above graph, there are two distinguishable peaks. The first centers around the American release day on December 21st and the second occurred on December 29th, just before the later releases in the United Kingdom, Ireland, and Australia.
While this looks like we have a major event in America followed by a slightly lesser event in the rest of the former British empire, we can arrive at some telling information by adjusting for the population. The US has a population of roughly 318.9 million, the UK has 64.1 million, Ireland has 4.5 million, and Australia has 23.1 million. If you do the math, that comes down to 3.4 Tweets per every 100,000 people on the highest day of the US peak, and 6.5 Tweets per every 100,000 people on the highest day of the second peak.
This means that citizens of the UK, Ireland, and Australia tweeted nearly twice as much about the movie as their American counterparts did.
Here’s why that matters:
In its opening weekend in America, the box office sales came to $10,278,225, while in the UK’s opening weekend the sales came to $6,621,229. Adjusted for population again, that makes the sales per capita 3.2 times greater in the UK, which is a substantially better outcome. So the first thing that’s come out of this data, is that Twitter impact was a predictor of sales success.
What did the UK do differently:
Now that we’ve established that Twitter activity is a predictor of success, what exactly happened to make the UK release generate so much more Twitter buzz than the American release? To answer that we began by examining the content being discussed in the Tweets. The first thing to jump out is how many of the Tweets are Retweets of some promotional material. Trailers, ads, hype up content generated by the studio or the Assassin’s Creed brand. This one, in particular, appeared 8,868 times in our collected Tweets:
Another trend among the Retweets of promotional materials, is that the Tweets with promotional materials often included a release date.
From there, we looked at how often people tweeting mentioned each of the release dates. 218 Tweets that we collected mentioned the American release date, while 3,402 mentioned the UK release date. Even without adjusting for the population this shows the promotional materials in the UK getting a far better impact.
Taking a look at the Tweets that mentioned the UK date, we noticed an odd jump in Tweets that occurred on the 18th-19th, which is far removed from the actual release date.
Upon investigation, this was due to a very successful advertising stunt. And by stunt, I mean a literal stunt.
On the 18th, a stuntman for the movie performed one of its signature spectacles called a Leap of Faith, jumping in freefall for about 100ft. The stunt was presented by Britain’s Channel 4 and produced an impact of 1,555 Tweets on its own.
Meanwhile, the highest impact advertising campaign accompanying the American release was the slogan “Destiny Awaits”.
“Destiny Awaits” accounted for only 139 Tweets in data.
If you think about it, it’s not hard to see why the Leap of Faith stunt generated a bigger Twitter impact than the “Destiny Awaits” slogan and ads. One is a spectacle in its own right, expands its net beyond the pre-existing fan base, and generates a whole second event for posts and comments. The other is just the status quo of advertising for those who are already following the brand or those who follow it enthusiastically.
Advertising went above and beyond the norm in the UK, but not in the US. And that difference preceded a difference of 3.2 times better sales per capita. Based on this example, tweeting ad slogans and trailers isn’t nearly as successful as creating a secondary spectacle. So in conclusion, perhaps the most important findings to take from this are that different strategies in advertising yield very different amounts of success, and the size of social media impact could serve as a useful metric of the expected sales success of those strategies.