Even if you’ve not actually seen Disney’s Frozen at the cinema, you’ve no doubt heard about it somewhere online.
Between the official Disney promos, the YouTube video of a dad and daughter singing along in the car to "Let it Go" (13 million views), or the outrageously cute nurse and teeny girl hospital patient belting out “Love Is An Open Door” — it’s inescapable.
And that was exactly Disney’s plan.
Of all the official online movie ads uploaded by the six big studios this year, almost half (44.2%) of the views went Disney’s way, according to a new report from Unruly. All of Disney’s 10 most-viewed videos (including videos that were paid for and those that weren’t) were related to Frozen.
And unlike most of the other big movie promos between September 2013 and September 2014, Disney's online content push actually peaked after the film’s premiere. People weren’t just searching for the trailer, they were looking for clips of the movie — which Disney duly served — generating millions of organic views and spawning off thousands of related user-generated videos.
Notably, those user videos have not been taken off YouTube at Disney's request, even though YouTube has a robust system for spiking copyright infringing content. We don't know whether Disney deliberately turned a blind eye to other people publishing Frozen song videos, but we can say those videos actually helped Disney's marketing of the movie — free advertising, in other words.
The top-shared Frozen videos were clips of the film launched on YouTube after the movie opened. In fact, the official trailer did not even rank in the top 10 shared videos of the 12 month period studied.
Why is this important?
Unruly says that almost a third (31%) of moviegoers who watch a movie promo (presumably whether that’s paid-for, organic, or a fan version not even made by the studio itself) would purchase a ticket to watch the film, and 28% they’d rent it.
The movie, which had a $150 million production budget, has grossed $1.2 billion at the box office, according to Box Office Mojo. The Unruly study doesn’t provide the exact link between those who saw Frozen videos and those who then went on to see the movie at the cinema, but it’s clear that the huge buzz Frozen has amassed online has built enough intrigue for people to dig into their pockets and watch the real thing for themselves.
What the study also demonstrates to film studios is that their strongest “trailers” probably aren’t their trailers, which goes against most of the received wisdom from decades of marketing their biggest hits. And they can also learn from this study that if a movie has the equivalent of a music video in it — Ed Sheeran’s “I See Fire” video for the new Hobbit movie has more than 34 million YouTube views — all the better.
The two main reasons why people share a video is the strength of the emotional response it elicits and social motivations like shared passions, being part of the zeitgeist and opinion seeking. Expect more studios to get a lot smarter — and a lot more incessant — about the way they advertise their movies online going forward.Here’s the most watched official Disney Frozen video on YouTube:
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