Takeovers & Social: How Summer Movie Blockbusters Are Strategizing on Digital

Aug 6, 2018 9:00:11 AM

Summer 2018’s blockbusters have a common theme: each one builds on earlier franchises. The summer movie season, defined as the first Friday in May through Labor Day Weekend, is filled with characters most of us have seen before – whether animated, comic book hero, from a galaxy far away, or even…a dinosaur.  And several of them also share a digital advertising strategy.

Read on to see how this summer’s top movies are advertising online with digital insights from each film’s ad strategy over time across device-types. 

At Pathmatics, we’ve pulled data to learn more about a film’s digital ad strategy before, but this is the first time we’ve investigated how Summer Blockbusters advertise across platforms.

Pathmatics data uncovers how far in advance a film launches its’ creatives, which device type is favored and how that shifts over the life of the campaign, what type of branding partnerships or unique campaign tactics a film seeks out, and when a film stops advertising. We also compare box office rankings with Pathmatics own relative ad spend data in the Arts and Entertainment category. 

Considering data from Friday May 4, 2018 until early July, the top 5 summer movies of 2018 and their release dates were:

  1. The Incredibles 2: June 15
  2. Deadpool 2: May 18
  3. Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom: June 22
  4. Solo: A Star Wars Story: May 25
  5. Ocean’s 8: June 8

Four of the top 5 films of the summer as of early July 2018 appear in the top 10 of Pathmatics’ ad spend ranking in the Arts & Entertainment category, with Ocean’s 8 appearing at number 16.

Those four movies also had very similar digital strategies – with the majority of spend going to desktop display over the life of the campaign. Desktop video came in second in terms of percent of budget, while a focus (albeit a very small portion of the overall budget) on mobile display was seen across the board toward the end of each campaign.

Surprisingly, the top five summer Blockbusters allocated the least spending toward social, with only Deadpool 2 and Solo: A Star Wars Story registering any significant spend, at 5% and 4% since May 4, 2018, respectively.

While Pathmatics data reveals that films aren't tapping into social advertising, guess who is? That’s right: the movie theaters. Since the start of Summer Movie Season, AMC Entertainment, Inc. has allocated 98% of spend toward social.

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CineMark Theaters spent significantly less than AMC on advertising within the time frame, but 21% of its’ spend went to social, with a few unique creatives for Deadpool 2 appearing on Facebook.

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The Incredibles 2: June 15 

Coming in first in the box office and second in Pathmatics’ ad spend ranking, The Incredibles 2 spent over $8.5 M for 585M relative impressions across device type since May 4, 2018.  Across device type, 155 unique creatives were released.

The Incredibles 2 campaign launched at the start of April 2018, two and a half months before the movie premiere, and ramped up across devices at the start of May. Pathmatics data shows a steep spend spike the day of film’s premiere, with nearly $2.4M spent on desktop display.

Top Device Types: Desktop Display, Desktop Video

For the first 2 weeks of the campaign, the film allocated the majority of its’ spend to desktop display at 65% and 80% in week one and two. However, over the course of the ad campaign, desktop video slowly replaced desktop display as the largest device type, and by week four, desktop video spend was at 59% with desktop display down to 5%.

Over the entire campaign, the film allocated 73% of spend to desktop display and 20% to desktop video.

Top sites include youtube.com and imdb.com, with IMDB.com page skin takeovers on the day before and the day of the premiere.

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Branding Partnerships

Brand partnerships for The Incredibles 2 include an especially key decision maker: Mom. Animated characters from the film were seen on ads for 14 brands in all, such as the Incredible Egg, Horizon Organic, Best Western, and Zillow.

The Incredibles 2 also marks the reuniting of McDonald’s and Disney for the first time since 2006.

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While the film itself started its campaign on June 4, 2018, Pathmatics data shows ads as part of a branding partnership launched even earlier. For example, this ad for Best Western, with The Incredibles 2 co-branded, was seen on May 23, 2018.

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Although The Incredibles 2 ad campaign was still going as of July, spending was significantly lower across devices and appeared to be nearing its’ end, making the entire campaign length a bit over 3 months.

Deadpool 2: May 18

Coming in second at the box office and ninth in Pathmatics’ ad spend ranking, Deadpool 2 spent over $3.4M for 318M relative impressions across device type since May 4, 2018.  The movie released 145 unique creatives in that time frame, on par with box office leader The Incredibles 2.

The Deadpool 2 digital campaign started around April 18 with desktop video spending, and over the life of the campaign, focused the majority of spend on desktop display and desktop video on top sites youtube.com and imdb.com, respectively. The ad below ran May 17 – 18 on top site youtube.com.

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Since summer movie season start, 74% of relative spend went to desktop display, and 16% to desktop video. Although mobile display was only 3% of spend overall, in the last week of the campaign, it spiked to 89% of spend.

Deadpool 2 recorded a steep spend spike on May 17, the day before the film’s premiere, with nearly $1.5M spent on desktop display.

The campaign ended June 4, 2018, exactly one month after the official start of summer movie season, and a little over 2 weeks after the release.

The Original Deadpool: Similar Strategy, Higher Spend

In contrast to the sequel, Deadpool was not a contender as a summer blockbuster, since it was released in February 2016. However, in a similar spend strategy, desktop display spend was a relative 50% of budget, with desktop video coming in second at 34%. Top sites for the 2016 release were reddit.com and youtube.com.

Interestingly, the Deadpool campaign for the first installment spent a bit more than the sequel -- a total of $5.5M for 379M impressions, releasing a total of 239 creatives.

(Our analysis of this summer’s blockbusters looked at spend from May 4, 2018, but Deadpool 2 campaign launched in late April 2018, spending a total of nearly $4M for 352M relative impressions across device type with 167 creatives.)

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom: June 22 

Coming in third in the box office and seventh in Pathmatics’ ad spend ranking in the Arts & Entertainment category, the newest installment of the Jurassic Park franchise spent over $3.7M for 231M relative impressions across device type since May 4, 2018.  The movie released 160 unique creatives in that time frame, similar to its seasonal competitors.

The Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom digital campaign started on May 29, less than a month before its premiere. Like the number one and two box office hits, the majority of spend was focused on desktop display (62%) and desktop video (25%) on top sites youtube.com and imdb.com. The page skin takeover below ran June 18 – 19 on top site imdb.com.

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Similar to Deadpool 2, Jurassic World allocated spend on mobile display at the end of the campaign. By the start of July 2018, overall spend and new creatives were close to zero, but the majority of spend was on mobile display.

Jurassic World recorded a steep spend spike on June 18, four days before the film’s premiere, with $824K going toward desktop display.

Solo: A Star Wars Story: May 25

Coming in at number four in the box office and second in Pathmatics’ ad spend ranking in the Arts & Entertainment category, the next installment in the Star Wars franchise spent $5M for 333M relative impressions on 188 unique creatives across device types since May 4, 2018. 

Solo: A Star Wars Story launched their campaign April 1, which was 2 months before the film launched and recorded a steep spend spike on May 23 (2 days before the film’s premiere), with $986K going toward desktop display. 

The overall budget for the life of the campaign was 66% toward desktop display and 22% toward desktop video, with only slightly more social activity than the other top films of the season.

Solo’s strategy was similar to the box office’s top 3 films in several ways:

  1. Solo traded off spend between display and video on a weekly basis – one week spending more on display and less of video, and the next week doing the reverse.
  2. Top sites were youtube.com and imdb.com
  3. Exactly like the other films, the current Star Wars franchise allocated much of its’ dwindling budget to mobile display in the last few weeks of the campaign.

One such mobile display ad ran on top sites bustle.com and rottentomatoes.com from May 17 -28, 2018.

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Solo: A Star Wars Story’s ad campaign ended on June 30, 2018, about 5 weeks after the premiere.

In perhaps the Pathmatics’ team’s favorite branding partnership of the Summer Blockbuster Season, Solo: A Star Wars Story partnered with none other than Solo cups (and plates!).

Ocean's 8: June 8

Coming in at number four in the box office and sixteenth in Pathmatics’ ad spend ranking in the Arts & Entertainment category, Ocean’s 8 spent $2.3M for 105M relative impressions on 71 unique creatives across device type since May 4, 2018. 

Ocean’s 8 campaign schedule was unique from the top four movies: stand-alone desktop video spending occurred April 13, a few months before the release. Then, one month before film release, there was minimal mobile video spending. By late May the desktop display spend kicked in, and the campaign activity started in earnest.  It recorded a steep spend spike on June 7, one day before the film’s premiere, with $543K going toward desktop display. 

Another difference between Ocean’s 8 and its’ competitors: the overall budget for the life of the campaign, with 43% going toward desktop display and 46% toward desktop video. Ocean’s 8 ad campaign ended on June 17 just 9 days after the premiere, making it the shortest post-premiere campaign of the top 5 movies of the summer.

Similar to other top films, the current Ocean’s franchise allocated much of its’ dwindling budget to mobile display in the last few weeks of the campaign. Top sites were youtube.com and imdb.com.


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Jordan Kramer

Written by Jordan Kramer

An out-of-the-box thinker with a love for disruptive ideas, Jordan's background spans PR and events for the wedding & hospitality industry in Los Angeles and Scottsdale and also launching one of America's most unique food trucks. She jumped from the food start-up scene to the tech start-up scene in 2013 to join one of the most unique companies in ad tech. Jordan is a graduate of the University of California, Santa Barbara with a Bachelor of Arts in Communication.

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