Why I’m Very Glad WB Did Not Spend $5M on a Legend of Tarzan Super Bowl Ad

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If you look at the metrics of the competition that DID spend $5M on an ad, you’ll agree.

We all know that the surest way to reach the largest audience with an ad is to buy time on the Super Bowl. The US Audience this year was approximately 120 million and a 30 second ad went for $5M.  That’s a lot of nickels. Assuming an overall promotional budget of $100M for a tentpole release — that’s a whopping 5% of the total promotional spend.. So is it worth it?  What are the metrics?

For example — accordng to Yahoo Finance, ETrade saw a 32% increase in new brokerage accounts after its first Super Bowl ad appeared.  CareerBuilder saw a 23% increase.  So you’d think — getting your message out to that many people should create some kind of measurable reaction.

Now lets to go movies.

This year, two Summer of ’16 competitors to LOT bought Super Bowl Ads — Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Out of the Shadows and Independence Day Resurgence.  Of the  two, the one that is the most relevant to LOT is IDR because it comes out a week before LOT, and if it opens YUGE then it’s second weekend could be in the 50-60m range and that would spell trouble for LOT, who also has to fend off Speilberg/Disney’s The BFG  on it’s opening weekend.

So … assuming you spend $5m and play a 30 second TV spot in the SuperBowl — what sort of measurable response would you look for?  First thing would be social media mentions and I’m sure there was a decent spike for both movies after their ad played.  I didn’t monitor it so I can’t be sure.

But one thing I did monitor is trailer views on YouTube.

Now, is it fair to think that running an ad on the Super Bowl should generate a surge in trailer views?

I think so.  I mean . . . if you see a spot for a movie you’re interested in, you think — go to YouTube and view the full trailer.  At least – that’s a pretty reasonable expectation for the target demo of these movies (but come on, even us boomers know to go to YouTube and check out a trailer, right?)  . . .

So, it just so happens, I’ve got my little trailer monitoring program going and one thing it occured to me to do was to do a checkin on LOT and its competition just before the SuperBowl.  So — let’s see where it was then. This was an hour before the Super Bowl, then an hour after, then two days after, and so on. There’s an interesting narrative embedded here.

One thing to keep in mind — prior to the Super Bowl, LOT was running ahead of both of the others in terms of acquiring new views—it was beating TMNT by a rate of about 10/7 and beating IDR at a rate of about 10/6.

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So what do the numbers say?

First — in the five hour period from the measure taken before the Super Bowl, to the one after the Super Bowl – a modest surge was experienced by the two who advertised.  Tarzan had been running 10/7 ahead — now, for that period, it was flipped, with the other two beating LOT by a factor of 10/3 or 10/4.  Still, for a $5m investment … not much of a payoff, at least not by this metric.  (We should keep in mind that marketing involves various stages and the first stage is “create awareness” — and the Super Bowl ads could create awareness without motivating people to “take action” which in this case would be “view the trailer online”.  But still, if the spot generated a real buzz, you’d expect to see a wave of views, and what we have here is more of a ripple, not a wave.)


Second, by two days letter, IDR had dropped back to where it was running almost even with LOT.  So the “surge” didn’t last long.  TMNT was still running a little hot, but the trend was toward realigning back to where things were before the ad.

Third, by 13 Feb — today — it’s clear that order has been restored and LOT is back on top in terms of the current rate of new views.

So . . . . look at it this way — the $5m spend looks like it may have netted each film at most 200,000 to 300,000 new views in the week after the ad.  That’s an overall increase in trailer views of about 2%.  Compare that to Etrade getting a 32% bump in new clients, or Careerbuilder getting a 23% bump in new applications.

So — back to the original premise — would it have been good for LOT to spend $5m on a Super Bowl ad?

I’m  going to say no.  I like where LOT sits right now. It’s like a horserace and LOT is tucked in a good position, and not expending energy.  It will be very interesting to see the surge when it comes.  I’m beginning to feel that for a variety of reasons, that surge should be later rather than sooner.  I think “peaking at the right time” is always important — but with LOT, I think it’s even more important than normal.  I think if they make too much noise too soon – LOT will draw fire and we may get the kind of media negativity that contributed to the doom of John Carter.  I think it’s better to lie low and let the trailer and limited promotional materials build a decent foundation ……and plan for a strong finishing kick.  There are dangers to that approach too ….. too much too soon is one problem, but too little too late is another.  Still, I like where the movies is positioned now.  It’s not attracting too much attention; the trailer views are fueling a modest organic growth and positivity is slowly rippling out from the trailer views — while media scorn is not triggered.   We’ll see.


  • Ha! Thanks you’re doing a better job than I am at keeping track of it. I’ve been laying back, waiting for it to pass IDR…..Will make some noise then.

  • On February the 13th of 2016, Tarzan was behind IDR by 1,318K views, and behind TMNT2 by 708K.
    On March the 3rd, Tarzan was behind IDR by 563K views, and behind TMNT2 by 400K.
    On March the 14th, Tarzan is behind IDR by 179K views, and behind TMNT2 (which passed IDR in numbers of views) by 277K.

  • Today March the 3rd:
    Independence Day 2: 19,932,977
    TMNT 2: 19,769,748
    Legend of Tarzan: 19,369,389

    Tarzan is slowly but steadily reducing the gap!

  • I have seen several pop ups leading to the LOT trailer. That seems a very good way to get out the word. The trailer itself is pretty impressive to me, even without an outline of the story. I like the King Leopold’s Ghost/Heart of Darkness angle. – that gives Tarzan a worthy challenge.

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