How Facebook Ads Help Deliver Big ROI for Magnolia Pictures

Wanting to raise awareness and drive box office and iTunes sales, film company Magnolia Pictures turned to Facebook advertising. Facebook’s Optimized CPM tool helped the company achieve nearly 2 million video plays of their movie trailers. Here’s how.

The Goal: Drive Video Views via Facebook Newsfeed Ads

Indie film distributor Magnolia Pictures’ goal was to expose people to their movies and ultimately drive users to view those films.

Two recent films Magnolia promoted via Facebook ads were “Drinking Buddies” a romantic comedy starring Olivia Wilde and Jake Johnson as co-workers at a craft brewery, and “Blackfish”, a documentary film about Seaworld killer whale Tilikum.

For these Facebook campaigns, Magnolia cared most about video views. Magnolia wanted people to see their movie trailers so they invested promoted posts in the news feed, targeting ads to both mobile and desktop users. Here’s what the “Drinking Buddies” ad looked like:

And here’s what “Blackfish” looked like:

Blackfish Facebook News Feed Ad

The company planned to gauge success by looking at metrics such as cost-per-view and click-through rate, as well as also seeing how the ads were received by assessing comments, especially keeping an eye out if people mentioned going to see the movie.

In the past, Magnolia focused their Facebook advertising efforts on fan acquisition and increasing the number of Likes. But Andrew McGraime, Magnolia’s head of interactive marketing, found getting views of their video content resulted in a more efficient return on investment of its advertising budget. After some testing, Magnolia gave up cost-per-click based ads once they discovered Facebook Optimized CPM (OCPM) performed better.

What is Facebook Optimized CPM?

Essentially, Facebook OCPM is a complex real-time advertising algorithm that takes into account a wide range of factors, such as a user’s historical page likes, demographic information (e.g., age, gender, location), and historical ad click activity. Search Engine Watch has previously covered how Facebook Optimized CPM can reduce cost-per-action and cost-per-conversion.

“The premise is you can tell Facebook what results you’re looking for – in Magnolia’s case it’s ‘we want people to view our video trailer,’” said Richard Sim, Facebook product marketing manager for performance. “Using OCPM or optimized delivery, they can set a target bid for their video views and Facebook will deliver the ad impression to users who are most likely to view that video.”

For “Drinking Buddies,” McGraime said that Magnolia mainly targeting women who liked films and TV shows that “Drinking Buddies” cast members have appeared in, as well as branching out into craft beer elements, such as women who liked craft beers, festivals, etc.

For a movie like “Blackfish,” an advertiser might want to target a certain age group, maybe 20-35, who lives in certain locations, maybe near a Sea World, Sim explained. You could also target for that film could by looking at any of hundreds of other likes and interests (e.g., people who like documentary films, are animal activists, or tend to watch videos), and branch out even further to include a more liberal demographic, such as Barack Obama supporters or people who shop at Whole Foods Market.

Facebook Ad Campaign Results

“I wasn’t sure how [targeting women who like craft beer] would align,” he said. “That worked out really well. Facebook is about the only place I’d be able to do that.”

Magnolia reports great success. As Sim put it: “Magnolia was really able to blow out their expectations.”

Video plays for “Drinking Buddies” totaled 620,000, with a CTR of 6.33 percent. The film is also a hit on iTunes. It was the top independent movie and since then has remained in the top 25 for 10 weeks (as of this writing it’s ranking in 15th place).

Video plays for “Blackfish” totaled 1.35 million and had an average CTR of 10.8 percent. The movie grossed almost $2 million in the box office.

McGraime said they did some small, targeted buys elsewhere, such as homepage banners and takeovers, but that advertising wasn’t nearly as efficient as what they found with Facebook OCPM.

Mobile was also a big hit for Magnolia. Mobile was 4x more efficient than desktop costs, McGraime said.

5 Tips for Facebook Advertising Success

Whether your want a Facebook user to view a video, buy a product, install a mobile app, or Like your page, Sim offered a few tips for Facebook advertising success:

  • Don’t forget the basics:
    • News Feed: It’s important to always think about what users want to see in their newsfeed, not just what you as an advertiser/business want them to see.
    • Targeting: Think about who your key audience is.
    • High-Quality, Compelling Creatives: Your target audience wants to see engaging images with relevant content.
    • Bidding: Always know the outcomes you want so you can bid accordingly.
  • Let Facebook help you: Tell Facebook what your campaign objective is. What do you want users to do after seeing an ad? (e.g., view a trailer, register for my site, buy a pair of shoes). You can use the conversion tracking pixel to inform Facebook when these things happen on your site. Then you’ll have the ability to optimize delivery of the ad so that Facebook can show your ads to users who most likely will do what you want them to do.
  • Don’t get hung up on CTR: CTR is a metric that most advertisers cite as a performance indicator. But if you have a very high CTR and no one actually buys anything from you, why would you care? CTR was important when it was difficult to measure the things you really care about (conversions) and match them to ads. That’s no longer the case. But today, many in the industry are still stuck on this metric. CTR works well when you’re optimizing for clicks, but there are other objectives such as app installs etc, that CTR doesn’t account for.
  • Set reasonable budgets, but don’t be afraid to expand them if you’re getting a good return. Set a budget that you feel comfortable testing out. Once you get good performance on a campaign, increase the budget so that your ad has a chance to deliver more impressions and drive more conversions.

McGraime added one additional Facebook advertising tip: make sure your target audience is fairly large, but still relevant, by adding more interests. Optimized CPM will find the right audience for you, McGraime said.

“If the audience is too small you might leave out groups that might perform well, not letting the system find them,” he said. “Before I would do no more than 5 to 6 million. The results got a lot better once we got it to over 10 million.”


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