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Star Wars Marketing: The Force Awakens the Power of TV Advertising

January 8th, 2016   ||    by Monta Monaco Hernon

As Star Wars VII: The Force Awakens turned the corner into 2016, its North American box office totals rocketed past $700 million just 20 days after it was released, surpassing all-time leader Avatar, which previously held the record with $760.5 million. The franchise is so well-known that moviegoers likely would have come out in droves at the mere mention of a release date, yet experts are marveling at Disney’s Star Wars marketing plan, which included more than a nod to the continued power of TV advertising.

A Forceful Push on the Small Screen

The week it was released, December 18, 2015, The Force Awakens was the biggest movie spender for TV advertising, with $5.3 million spent on 609 airings of a trailer across 35 networks, according to the Variety Movie Commercial Tracker powered by In comparison, during the week of December 22, The Revenant led the pack with $5.36 million in TV ad spending, and The Hateful Eight took the top spot, spending $6.97 million during the week of December 29. The Wall Street Journal reported Disney had spent $25.5 million in total on Star Wars TV ads in the United States by the time opening weekend rolled around. This might seem downright frugal compared to some of the top spenders in 2015, including Jupiter Ascending, which shelled out $32.8 million for TV spots, and Mad Max: Fury Road, which came in at a close second at $32.2 million.

However, the television side of the Star Wars marketing plan did not end there. Disney partnered with many of big-name companies, several of which have co-branding rights. This means firms such as Verizon, Kraft, Subway, Go-Gurt, Campbell’s, Dodge and Ram trucks, and CoverGirl are running television ads that promote both their products and The Force Awakens. Their efforts, in combination with Disney’s own spending, brought the TV total to around $70 million before opening weekend. Merchandising from companies with products associated with the Star Wars brand, such as LEGO, Hot Wheels, and Kohl’s, brought in another $50 million in television advertising in that same time frame, according to Ad Age.

Across the Marketing Galaxy

According to the Adobe Digital Index, Disney’s marketing plan for Star Wars has been methodical and includes lessons to be learned regarding cross-platform marketing. The chosen partnerships were very strategic; for example, Hasbro video game Star Wars Battlefront generated 551,000 social media hits when it was released. The official movie trailer first aired on October 19 during Monday Night Football, increasing the film’s social media hits by 2,000 percent. The airing of the official TV spot in November also led to a small spike, Adobe said, and according to The Wall Street Journal, just prior to the movie’s release, the trailer had already been viewed 71 million times on YouTube and around 13.5 million times on Facebook.

The money spent by Disney and its partners on television advertising illustrates that the medium is considered a powerful ally to movie magic, or at least box-office triumph. Programmatic technology provides a way to make decisions about where to place advertisements and automates the workflow to bring efficiency to the process. This plays out differently for television than the programmatic platforms used for digital, but even still, the methodological approach and automation make it easier to unify marketing strategies across platforms.

To find out more about the force programmatic can awaken in television, contact Videa.

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