By the time you read this the results will be in, the winners known, the debates on who was selected and why will be raging, the gowns will be endlessly discussed – the best dressed praised…the worst pilloried, and the social networks will be Buzzing…

And there you have my topic.

While Buzz has always been what the Oscars are about…I imagine from the very first one awarded…and while there has always been controversy over how that Buzz might or might not control the outcome of the fabled night of stars…you would think that the media has discovered a new concept as they weigh in on the added effects of digital social networks to the selfsame Buzz: “Hasn’t the use of social media made a huge difference to the successful marketing of films this year and maybe even to the Oscar winner?”

In fact…I was asked the question as it specifically related to two movies – one The Social Network and the other The King’s Speech. And guess what the implication was – DUH – that the Facebook saga was obviously new media, new world, while the historical period biopic was old traditional, tired marketing.

So here are the facts.

Both movies have achieved similar box office sales – both in the US and around the world.

The Social Network: $96.6million (US); $221million (worldwide)

The King’s Speech: $93.9million (US) $236.9million (worldwide)

So clearly the winner has to be The Social Network – low-/no-cost marketing must have propelled their ROI and proven once and for all that social marketing has taken over.

Guess again.

Here are more facts.

The Social Network outspent The King’s Speech by a factor of 5 in total media spend. But what is more interesting is it outspent The King’s Speech in old tired media by almost the same factor with a huge budget on cable and spot TV as well as in newspapers. To be fair, and as one would expect, they outspent them on Internet marketing as well.

Now let’s dig deeper.

Earned media gets interesting based on Google Trends…with both films scoring similar numbers in terms of news mentions but The Social Network blowing past The King’s Speech in blogs and on Twitter. And, based on The Listening Platform data, while both movies trended the same in general social media buzz, The King’s Speech had about half the action of The Social Network – however, specifically related to the Oscar both were neck and neck as they were often discussed together.

And the effect of it all is that The Social Network built its audience quickly – in fact it hit 50% of its cumulative sales in the first 3 weeks. The King’s Speech grew slowly, accumulating audience and screens as the weeks passed. So WOM trumps WOM?

By this time you have guessed the bottom line – the old world movie returned 5X the ROI… some $15 for every dollar spent vs. $3 – making The Social Network not only a very expensive movie to make but a hugely expensive movie to market – despite its overwhelming buzz and chatter on-line.

So what do we learn? Or maybe more importantly, what do we confirm?

  • Off-line marketing drives on-line behavior. Spend the bucks in the right place, where people are, and they will follow you on-line
  • The right/big combination of on-line and off-line channels drives faster acquisition
  • That WOM is not necessarily linked to big numbers on-line – WOM is what it is – the total accumulation of all that is said – good or bad – we need to remember that people still talk to one another….
  • Great content trumps good content

Now – my point is not that Social Internet marketing isn’t working – on the contrary – my point is that Social Marketing is and has always been a major driver in movie success as well as in retail shopping and everywhere else.

My point is that human interaction is at the core of all marketing – we can’t lose sight of that and that at the end of the day it’s all about how well we learn to connect and just how good what we are connecting for is.

My point is that we cannot allow ourselves to get lost in the technology – if anything we must lose ourselves in people, in humanity, in real insight…and in creating great stories.

Listen to how a techie from a company in question phrases it…

“The future of messaging is more real time…the medium isn’t the message. The message is the message.”

Andrew Bosworth, director of engineering at Facebook

One last point – based on Twitter traffic, Inception will be the Oscar winner…and there you have it all…

What’s your viewpoint?

PS – were you happy with who won?

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