What role can radio play in launching a major new movie? According to a Hollywood exec, it’s a significant one. Julie Rieger, former President, Chief Data Strategist and Head of Media for 20th Century Fox, talks about how a campaign the studio did last fall resulted in a 12% bump in ticket sales among people who had downloaded the iHeartRadio app. “It was fan-frickin-tastic,” she tells iHeart CEO Bob Pittman in the latest episode of “Math & Magic: Stories From the Frontiers of Marketing.”
As part of the campaign for the blockbuster “Bohemian Rhapsody,” Fox’s data science team compared anonymized data of moviegoers with moviegoers who had downloaded the iHeart app. “The reason we were comfortable using your app data is that roughly 90% of those who have downloaded the app also listen to terrestrial,” Rieger explained.
One month after the Freddie Mercury biopic opened, Rieger’s team analyzed four weeks of data on “Bohemian Rhapsody” ticket buyers in each of the databases. The result? The iHeart users were buying tickets at a 12% higher rate than moviegoers as a whole. “Twelve percent was fan-frickin-tastic,” she said on the podcast. Curious about whether the 12% bump was because they were getting music fans to buy tickets for a music movie, Rieger said she then analyzed data on ticket purchasers from other films for which the studio conducted campaigns with iHeart and “found the same pattern.” The iHeart sub-segment “always came in higher that the general moviegoer segment,” she explained. “Bohemian Rhapsody” was a “a tick higher,” however, which Rieger attributes to its music nature and a roadblock stunt where iHeartMedia’s 650 U.S. music stations simultaneously aired the film’s title track in what iHeart called the biggest roadblock in history. “You guys came back to us, and it was like magic, and said we’re going to roadblock six minutes across our entire network. And once I pulled myself up off the floor and was able to utter a word, the word was genius. And we did it right before the movie launched.”
Rieger agreed with Pittman that part of the 12% lift was because radio personalities talking about a movie is not unlike friends making a recommendation. But she also cited the “human nature” of the medium. “Technology has set people free to do what they want, when they want, except in a car,” she offered. “In a car you are forced to surrender and what better to surrender to than someone you’ve been listening to for a good part of your life. You can hear a story or be introduced to a new song or get excited about a movie maybe you hadn’t heard about.”
Pittman then compared radio talent to “somebody’s best friend riding in the empty seat with them every day to work.” Rieger pointed out how radio personalities also talk about what’s happening in their city in the moment. “You’re part of that because what we all long to be is a part of something,” she said. “Your talent gives them another layer of connection and we all desperately want to be connected.”
Pittman and Rieger touch on a wide range of topics in the podcast, including her passion for story-telling and how it intertwines with her love for data within the film industry, her opinion on the future of theater and streaming services, and even her new-found paranormal ghost seeing abilities. Now in its third week, the “Math & Magic” podcast has also featured conversations with talent manager Scooter Braun; Maurice Lévy, Chairman of the Supervisory Board of Publicis Groupe; and Tim Castree, GroupM CEO.