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How To Elevate Your Movie Marketing: Behavioural vs. Demographic Data

Understanding the difference between demographic data and behavioural data can elevate the way you understand and market to your audiences.

Previously, we’ve discussed the importance of first-party data, and how it differs from second and third-party data. Continuing our deep dive into all things data—and why understanding these differences is key to using yours to its fullest effect—we explored the difference between demographic data and behavioural data in audiences with our Regional Director of EMEA, Gabriel Swartland.

What is the difference between demographic and behavioural data?

If we start with demographic data, the most obvious might be age and gender, data points that enable marketers to segment moviegoers into relevant demographic "buckets" for insight, comparison, or even basic targeting. For example, with good demographic data an analysis of the Tenet moviegoer audience in the UK shows us that it skewed significantly (over 50%) towards the under 25 year olds, and predominantly male (over 65%).

Behavioural data helps us understand more about who those under 25 year old males are, and how they spend their time and money. How many tickets did they buy? Did they purchase any concession items when they visited? With behavioural data, marketers can gain a deeper understanding of their moviegoers, for example how frequently some moviegoers might visit a cinema versus others. It is also worth mentioning that both the demographic and behavioural data I'm referring to is first-party data. Data obtained by consent through a trusted relationship between the cinema exhibitors and their customers.

Why is this relevant for cinema exhibitors and film studios? 

Targeting based on demographic data alone, which has long been the purview of film industry marketers, just feels outdated now. There is so much access to data on behaviour, through loyalty programmes and the proliferation of online booking (particularly across the last year), that not using that data to better serve moviegoers really feels like a disservice. We know the cinema experience starts long before you walk into the building. That means a personalised level of communication that includes recommendations that are specific to the individual. Behavioural data makes that possible and, therefore, it's a better experience for the moviegoer and more efficient for the studio or exhibitor doing the promotion.

That is not to say that demographic data doesn't bring value when targeting. If we first target based on behaviour, the demographic understanding we can take from that audience segment can be really insightful. It can help marketers shape the content of their marketing messages, tailoring the message to suit a target audience that you discover skews older and female for example. It also provides the data points to help marketers create relevant segments in other platforms that might only provide demographic data to work with.

By understanding who is visiting a cinema, what films they are seeing, in what format, when, and where, cinema marketers can more accurately and effectively tailor the right messaging for the right audience. At Movio, we have built tools that leverage the behavioural data to target based on propensity (someone's likelihood to see a target film). Our data science team built an algorithm that looks for audience overlap across comparable titles, in order to find moviegoers with like minded moviegoer behaviour habits. Our Propensity Algorithm then ranks the target audience into cohorts based on their likelihood to see the target film. This additional layer enables studios to tailor the timing and messaging of their marketing accordingly; those possibly likely to see the film could be targeted with an early awareness trailer to tempt them, while those with higher likelihood of seeing the target film might only need that "tickets on sale" call to action closer to release.

What examples have you seen from exhibitors and/or studios using behavioural data well? 

What is really exciting is how more and more of our clients—both exhibitors and studios—are positioning behavioural-based targeting at the heart of their marketing campaigns. On the exhibitor side, using a moviegoer's previous viewing history to help prioritise the order and content recommendations in a newsletter—what we call Dynamic Content—is becoming standard practice. I like how an exhibitor such as Curzon Cinemas in the UK, who pride themselves on fostering film discovery, make use of Dynamic Content by modelling audiences for their more obscure titles, so that those titles surface neatly alongside the more obvious blockbuster recommendations for their customers.

For the studios we work with, aggregated audience data has provided insights of actionable value for some time, particularly in planning for future releases. Accessed directly through our Research Platform, or via a bespoke set of reports, understanding the audience evolution over time plays a significant role in contextualising how a film performs at the box office, but increasingly how a studio might augment their media strategy across the film's release life-cycle. Is that anticipated secondary audience coming out as expected from week 2? Should media activations be dialled up or down as a result?

Using Movio's behaviour-based targeting for that media activation is where studios can make a tangible difference in the first place. Targeting based purely on demographic segmentation will certainly catch a lot of relevant moviegoers for the studio's film. It will, however, also catch a considerable number of moviegoers not interested and thereby incur a lot of wastage in that media spend. Not to mention, interested moviegoers who happen to fall outside the primary demographic are being excluded from the campaign, a wasted opportunity that can and should be avoided. Giving studios access to the behavioural-based targeting that exhibitors have been leveraging for sometime, they can focus on those most likely to see the target movie and particularly the purchasing the tickets. We are repeatedly seeing studios minimise wastage and generate considerable return on their ad spend. 

What can demographic and behavioural data tell us about the last year and the impact of COVID-19?

The challenges of the last year have made a detailed level of customer insight all the more important as we try to understand things like who is choosing to come back to cinemas first; or the possible changes in moviegoing habits as a result of the pandemic. Our data science team recently completed some research into who were the moviegoers coming back to cinemas across the last 12 months. The research focused on moviegoers in the US and UAE with the goal of trying to understand if pre-pandemic visitation habits could be a good predictor for who is coming back first as cinemas reopen.

The results were really interesting. Those moviegoers who were most frequent visitors pre-Covid, and those who were higher spenders, were most likely to come back first. So groups and families are clearly keen to get back to the big screen experience. We are seeing that played out at the moment here in the UK with the success of films like Peter Rabbit 2. Another behaviour that was perhaps more unexpected, was those loyalty program members that shared more of their data, like a valid phone number or date of birth, than others, being more likely to come back sooner. When looking at moviegoers, both the sharing of data and engaging with the marketing that is coming from cinemas, are strong predictors of a likelihood to return sooner.

What are your top tips for marketers starting to include behavioural data in their marketing strategies and campaigns?

For studios yet to explore behavioural data when it comes to cinema, dive in! Our exhibition partners have been leveraging behavioural data for a few years and benefiting from the improved conversion rates behavioural-based targeting provides. Those studios who have been using first-party moviegoer behaviour-based targeting, have seen ticket purchase conversion rates of 7%, significantly above the 2% conversion rates we have seen from purely demographic-based targeting.
For exhibitors, continue to adopt mass one-to-one marketing and use behaviour to personalise the content of communications. It is significantly more resource efficient, and less wasteful than traditional one-to-many campaigns.

In the immediate term, as cinemas reopen, use behaviour to create smarter segmented groups, like "returning moviegoers" to maximise the opportunities of those moviegoers who have returned to cinemas first, and look at the demographic breakdown of the segment to help inform appropriate messaging. And vice versa to understand who is yet to return to cinemas and therefore who might need further reassurance of cinema safety protocols, or the temptation of an offer.
We are creatures of habit, with the abundance of film content delayed from 2020 coming to cinemas in the second half of this year, marketers should use attendance data to turn each visit into the next. Recency data should play a big part of your targeting in campaigns, as we get moviegoers back into the habit of the big screen experience.

How can you see behavioural data developing in the future?

There will be more of it: The events of the past year have seen a huge acceleration in the use of digital technology in our everyday lives. A digital usage transformation that is surely here to stay and that businesses must take immediate advantage of. Online ticket sales have unsurprisingly surpassed in-cinema sales pretty much across the board because of the pandemic. The opportunity that provides to capture consents for digital marketing are increasing as a result. There is a huge opportunity for the theatrical industry to catch-up with the streamers, where data capture is built-in, and to reap all the benefits that first party behavioural data provides.

There will be more expected from it: Another big change is around data privacy. Just as the increase in digital transactions provides increased opportunities to capture data, the need for greater transparency on the use of that data is even more important. Agreeing to part with your data is a transaction and savvy consumers will expect a return on that exchange. Increasingly, a component of that data exchange is zero-party data, data a moviegoer will explicitly provide in order to receive a better experience in return. "These are my genre preferences, so tell me about these types of films!" High up the list of importance when it comes to the benefits of joining a loyalty programme, is ease of use. No longer simply the personalised welcome message or pre-populated form-filling, but that first party and zero party data should inform when, how and what you communicate with me. If we explain the benefits of handing over your data, and make sure we demonstrate those benefits with every interaction, moviegoer loyalty is the reward.

At Movio, we are focused on working with our exhibitor and studio partners to develop the opportunities this data provides, and further investment in our data science team supports this. Improving things like our propensity algorithm and applying it to non-ticket items so you're recommended the right product to further enhance your cinema experience, is just one example. With the demise in the use of cookie data captured from following us around the web, and other third-party data collection, secure, consent-driven first-party data use is increasingly important and central to our mission to connect all moviegoers to their ideal movie.

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