Ironically, not long after our post "Does Independent Film Needs Its Own Google?" Google itself came out with a white paper with lengthy findings about how internet search results and trailer hits correlate to box office sales. In other words, they have been tracking some of the information that we believed was not tracked, proving their utility as a search engine (and profit making company) to the film industry. The findings don't answer all the questions we would like answered about data in the film industry, and still data remains elusive in the field in a way it isn't in many others, but what's striking is how some of the audience stats to come out of the study parallel with voter activity in a campaign. For example (and thanks to Zack Coffman for writing up a summary of the paper here): "on average, moviegoers consult 13 sources before they make a decision about what movie to see." I distinctly remember hearing a similar statistic about how many sources voters turn to before they make a decision about who to support. The context in hearing that, way back when, was that as a volunteer calling the voter, you can be one of those sources. Similarly, if a film campaign were to enact grassroots methods to have enthusiastic fans/volunteers interact with strangers about a particular film, they become one of those 13 sources. Another quotation: "48% of moviegoers decide what film to watch the day they purchase the ticket." Normally, in a national election, the number of undecided voters on Election Day is significantly smaller than 48%; however, in state or regional or district elections, where the awareness of the candidate is lower, the undecided count is higher. In any case, it's just more proof that a film could benefit from enacting the tactics that a campaign would use for their "persuasion universe" of undecided voters, right up until the day a film opens.
Mr. Coffman is of the opinion that the Google findings spell good things for independent filmmakers, because (as accessible data tends to do) it levels the playing field. The idea is that with a properly timed and named trailer -- one with a title that gives it solid SEO (search engine optimization) and that comes out a month prior to release (where attention is found to be the highest) -- the only variable factor in competing with the big studio fare is the quality of the trailer. It's my opinion that the deck is stacked against truly low budget independent filmmakers as far as creating the kind of "quality" in a 2 minute spot that can compete with the gloss and music licensing budgets of studios, but Coffman's point is a fare one: your trailer will be judged just on the interest it generates.
However, independent filmmakers can build on the advantages that this kind of data gives them by using it in an effective and efficient way. So you have enough money for a couple TV trailers, and now you know you should start releasing them one month out. But why just throw them on a popular show and spend tons of P & A money, when you can follow the Obama campaign's lead (detailed in our post here) and use a prior data set to identify some specific target audience groups that you can access better, in a cheaper time slot?
All data is good data. And when proper resources are given to analyzing and cross-referencing it, filmmakers can save money by being deliberate and targeted in outreach to their audience.