‘Solo: A Star Wars Story’ Misses Expectations Despite Marketing Efforts

Despite a large marketing push, Solo: A Star Wars Story debuted well behind industry expectations this weekend, forcing Disney executives to rethink future strategy. The stand-alone film about Star Wars’ most infamous smuggler was expected to reach upwards of $150 million domestically but earned just $103 million as of Monday.

Can fans get too much Star Wars too quickly? The film was released just five months after The Last Jedi, which has Disney looking for a connection.

“We have a lot of work to do in trying to understand this,” Disney distribution chief Dave Hollis told The Hollywood Reporter. “We are all over it and will spend a lot of time digging into why things happened the way they did in various markets. We have a year and a half before Episode IX comes out.”

For analysts, Solo‘s box office setback calls to question the relationship between marketing and box office success.

“Disney has more marketing muscle than any other studio given the iconic nature of their brand,” Karie Bible, box office analyst and film historian at Exhibitor Relations, told AListDaily. “Overall, Solo had the lowest debut on record for a Disney-released Star Wars film and could have an impact on future spin-offs in the franchise.”

Marketing for Solo: A Star Wars Story included partnerships that ranged from Denny’s menu items to packaging for Solo plastic cups.

Disney/Lucasfilm shared exclusive behind-the-scenes commentary through Google Assistant. An action called “My Special Guest” allows users to ask questions of Alden Ehrenreich (Han Solo), Emilia Clarke (Kira) or director Ron Howard.

After a substantial marketing tie-in for Rogue One, Nissan once again teamed up with Lucasfilm to give away custom vehicles inspired by Solo: A Star Wars Story. Nissan debuted a custom Rogue made to look like the Millennium Falcon at the red carpet premiere and hosted a photo booth to encourage social sharing.

Marketing a beloved character is a blessing and a curse, placing Disney in the precarious position of honoring Star Wars characters while meeting modern sensibilities.

“The franchise, in general, is at a crossroads,” said Bible. “[Disney and Lucasfilm] are trying to make films that appeal to the younger generation while still pleasing fans who grew up with the originals.”

Solo hit an interstellar speed bump when fans learned that directors Christopher Miller and Phil Lord were fired and again when some fans disagreed with Lando Calrissian being pansexual.

“Perhaps more than any franchise in film history, Star Wars fans are personally and deeply invested in these films,” said Bible. “They grew up with them since childhood. If they are displeased in any way, they will be very vocal about it to everyone on social media. Word of mouth spreads like wildfire and people respond accordingly.”

Despite these obstacles, Solo: A Star Wars Story still managed to nab the number one box office spot for Memorial Day weekend. Box office revenue increased 26 percent over last year, Bible said, thanks to bigger franchises like Deadpool 2 and Avengers: Infinity War.

Netflix Passes Comcast in Market Value, Inches Closer To Disney

Originally published at VideoInk.

Netflix is now worth more than Comcast. The streamer blew past the cable provider in market value yesterday, signaling another milestone for the streaming industry as it continues to successfully compete with Pay-TV.  Currently, the company’s market cap is around $149 billion while Comcast is sitting at $147 billion. Netflix’s next target is Disney, which leads the three companies with a market cap of $153 billion.

Netflix’s stock has gone up more than 70 percent since January. Confidence in the streamer is generated partly by its ability to create and acquire successful original content like “Stranger Things,” “Black Mirror,” “House of Cards,” “Orange is the New Black” and animated comedy “BoJack Horseman.”  This growing library of original content has been key to attracting and retaining subscribers. In order to keep up with the demand, Netflix plans to spend $8 billion on original projects this year, producing a mix of approximately 700 movies and “TV” series.

Netflix’s ultimate goal is for its original content to make up at least 50 percent of its library. In September 2016, Netflix’s CFO, David Wells, said the company was “one-third to halfway” there. Netflix executives feel there is greater opportunity (and safety) in the company owning its content, rather than licensing. One of the concerns is that as more companies launch OTT services they will no longer want their content (or at least the good stuff) streaming on rival platforms. This has already been the case with Disney. The multimedia conglomerate plans to launch a Disney-branded service in 2019, when it will also remove its content from Netflix.

With Disney having rights to blockbuster hits like Marvel’s Avengers, “Star Wars,” “Coco,” and its long list of classic and current cartoons, Netflix isn’t going to be looking as attractive for some, especially those who turn to the service for its licensed content. A recent study conducted by 7Park Data suggested that it’s actually licensed titles like TV show reruns that form the core of the company’s streaming business. The study found that 80 percent of Netflix US viewing is from licensed content with 20 percent from original shows.

Gamers Spent $9B In April; ‘Fortnite’ And ‘God of War’ Top The Charts

Consumers spent $9.09 billion globally on digital video games in April, an increase of 23 percent year-over-year (YoY) according to the latest figures by SuperData Research.

Console and mobile digital game revenue were the primary drivers of growth in April, according to SuperData, offsetting relatively flat growth on other platforms.

Epic Stays In The Fight

Fortnite not only continues to thrive in the Battle Royale genre, but it broke another record last month. The popular title earned $296 million in April across Console, PC and Mobile, compared to $223 million in March.

Once again, Fortnite: Battle Royale was the top-earning game in the console category for digital game revenue.

The rise of Fortnite is good news for Epic Games, but Rock Star is feeling the pinch as players shift their attention away from Grand Theft Auto V. After an amazing streak of 12 consecutive months with YoY growth, GTAV Online declined nine percent YoY in April. The loss of player attention may not all be attributed to Fortnite, however. SuperData noted a “dearth of significant content updates” from Rockstar may also be attributing to the game’s slow decline.

Either way, Grand Theft Auto V slipped one spot on the digital console charts down to number six.

Sony Slays Records

God of War sold an estimated 2.1 million digital units at launch in April, becoming the largest console exclusive digital launch to date. To put things into perspective, God of War sold more than double that of the second-largest Sony exclusive launch, Uncharted 4.

Sony’s monster-slaying, father and son epic took home the number two spot for digital console revenue in April, bumping Far Cry 5 down to number five.

Tencent Maintains Its Honour

Honour of Kings is the top-grossing mobile title in the world, having earned another $185 million in April. The MOBA generated its highest month to date in April, up from $171 million in March and $149 million a year ago.

Tencent’s mobile mogul continues to defend its top spot on the digital revenue charts month after month.

‘God Of War’ Unseats ‘Far Cry 5,’ Smashing Video Game Sales Records In April

The NPD Group has released its monthly report for on new physical video game sales, as well as a subset of full-game digital downloads from participating publishers in NPD’s digital panel. Although not intended to cover total market/total consumer spend, the figures give us an idea of industry-wide trends.

April saw an 18 percent increase in spending across the hardware, software and accessories verticals, reaching $823 million. Year-to-date spending is also up across all categories, rising 15 percent year over year to $4.2 billion.

God Of War Brutalizes The Market

Sony’s critically acclaimed first-party title God of War swept the categories for the month, achieving the title of April’s best-selling game despite the fact that it’s only available for the PlayStation 4.

“Sony was April’s top-selling publisher, driven by the success of God of War,” said NPD analyst Mat Piscatella. “The PS4 exclusive from Santa Monica Studios achieved the highest ever launch month dollar sales for a title launched exclusively on a PlayStation platform.”

Indeed, sales for God of War helped the PlayStation 4 set the all-time record for April game sales on any platform, a record last set by the Xbox 360 back in 2008.

Far Cry 5 Continues Its Reign

Ubisoft’s flagship Far Cry franchise, despite losing the number-one spot for game sales, is still on top for year-to-date figures, remaining the top selling game of the year. Additionally, Ubisoft is the top-selling publisher of the year, helped by the continued success of its Tom Clancy titles.

Total software sales reached $359 million for the month of April, up 13 percent year-over-year. Year-to-date software sales hit $1.9 billion, a growth of 9 percent.

Consoles Continue Steady Growth

Hardware spending showed few surprises this month, increasing 15 percent to $225 million for the month and jumping 14 percent to $1.2 billion for the year.

“Spending gains for Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and Plug N Play devices such as the SNES Classic have driven growth,” added Piscatella. “Sony’s PlayStation 4 was the best-selling console hardware platform in April, and remains the best-selling console hardware platform year to date.”

The PlayStation 4 system set another decade-old record, beating out the Nintendo Wii from 2008 as the highest April dollar sales for a console.

Continuing a trend from last month, sales of headsets and headphones are significantly higher than they were a year ago, totaling an 89 percent growth over April 2017.

Meet Tes: Westworld’s Mysterious Chatbot, Personality Test And Loyalty Program

Westworld‘s second season promises viewers further exploration into the questions raised by the first, and its marketing activations have kept to the same promise. Sending out an email invitation to “recent visitors” to the park, HBO is launching another, even more mysterious Facebook Messenger chatbot, named Tes.

“You’ve been selected to join Westworld Elite Status—a one-of-a-kind program available exclusively to our most loyal park guests,” Tes says as she opens the conversation.

But, this being Westworld, there’s more to it than there seems at the surface. Tes is HBO’s second chatbot to promote its sci-fi western series—its first bot, Aeden, was nominated for a Shorty Award last year.

But where the previous chatbot acted as a concierge for the park, guiding users to visit the Westworld website, Tes has longer-reaching goals. After posing a series of philosophical questions and ethical dilemmas (and “glitching,” as the show’s robots are wont to do), the bot assigns its conversation partner to one of four different “zones” based on their answers.

“Ruby Guests know what they want and have the strength to take it. They make choices in the blink of an eye, understanding that nothing is worse than indecision. With Ruby access, the whole world is yours to conquer,” Tes states for users who responded to questions decisively. “I think you and I are going to get along great, Will. Your power and lack of scruple could be of great service.”

Once a user is assigned to a “zone,” that’s the end of the interaction; no further attempts at conversion required. Tes drops a quote in Latin from Virgil’s Aeneid that Reddit users are already hard at work unpacking.

In addition to tapping into the “sorting hat” process that helped make Pottermore and legions of Buzzfeed quizzes so popular, the chatbot promises to keep users in the loop with content and activities designed specifically for them, turning the exercise into a bizarre form of meta-fictional loyalty program.

“Now that you’re an Elite Status member, you’ll hear from me every week with exclusive offers, activities, and updates available only to Ruby guests,” Tes states. “You have no idea what’s in store.”

IAB Report: 70 Million US Households Will Own Smart Speakers By 2022

As voice recognition and speech software becomes more impressive, marketers are starting to wonder if they should enter the field themselves, and if so, how. Fortunately, the Interactive Advertising Bureau has just released a substantive guide on the subject, giving the curious and unsure a look at what voice means for them now, and what it will mean in the future.

“This evolution of technology is unique because it’s not only introducing new devices and software, but it is also bringing on the mass adoption of a new interface for interacting with devices,” the IAB voice report, titled “Implications of Voice for Marketing Purposes,” reads. “For many consumers, this is the first time they are using their own voice to command a device and the first time they are hearing devices respond in a very human sounding way.”

Many of these first-time consumers are getting hooked on phonemes. According to the IAB voice report, 18 percent of Americans currently use voice assistants, either through smart speakers or their smartphones, and of those users, 65 percent are unwilling to go without them again.

Not only does the IAB predict the number of voice platform users to grow rapidly in the near future, but so too will the amount of time (and money) spent using the technology. The IAB voice report predicts that 70 million US households will own smart speakers by 2022, and there will be over 870 billion voice assistant-enabled devices in the US by the same year. Additionally, the IAB predicts the share of consumer spending transacted through voice assistants to quintuple in the next three years.

“In the future, consumers will get more comfortable with these devices and their actions become more meaningful and have real revenue implications, like making purchases, providing reviews and re-ordering items seamlessly,” the report reads.

But this time and money spent with voice platforms won’t come from nowhere. Thirty-nine percent of smart speaker users are spending less time with traditional radio, 34 percent are looking at their smartphones less frequently, and 30 percent are watching television less often. According to the IAB’s forecasts, the money spent through voice platforms will come primarily at the expense of physical retailers, whose share of customer spending will drop from 59 percent to 45 percent as a result of voice platforms’ meteoric growth.

“One of the reasons people shop in stores is because you can interact, ask question and get advice. Consumers will shift their behavior to shop at home if they can have a similar or better interactive experience.” Mark Paul Taylor, chief experience officer of Capgemini.

Even as the IAB stresses the importance for brands to develop their voice strategies quickly, it warns that the limited number of platforms necessitates a different approach than convention may suggest.

“Brands are at risk of being marginalized in a voice driven world, so brand marketing may matter even more. Asking Alexa to order you batteries will result in Amazon simply fulfilling your request with their brand of batteries, but the brands who continue to invest in differentiation and brand identity will inspire consumers to ask for them directly,” said Bryan Moffett, chief operating officer of National Public Media.

Overall, marketers should use caution when designing their own approaches to voice-based marketing. Because the technology is so nascent, number of users of an Alexa skill or Google Home feature may not fully reflect how well an activation is fuctioning.

“Usage is an important KPI for us—where do people finish in the journey? Do they learn a certain number of whisky facts? It’s important to establish these KPIs at the beginning, combined with a very clear consumer purpose, to make sure you’re building the right engagement points for the right outcome,” said Jefferson Kohler, brand manager for Diageo.

No matter how voice platforms will change the field, the IAB voice report holds one marketing truism to persist, that in order to be effective, an activation needs to be integrated.

“Similar to the early days with the app ecosystem, ‘gimmicky’ apps that appear to serve little purpose will clutter the environment,” stated Donnie Williams, chief digital officer for Horizon Media.

With “Now Feel This” Concert Livestreams, Skullcandy Wants To Get Back To Basics

Headphone manufacturer Skullcandy got its start by focusing on musicians and music fans, and with its yearlong Now Feel This concert series, it hopes to return on its original promises without losing sight of what’s on the horizon.

“We started as an audio company focusing on music, so we’re really getting back to our roots,” said McKenna Taylor, Skullcandy’s global brand manager, told AListDaily. “We’ve gotten distracted a bit in the past.”

A series of 29 concerts over the course of a year, Now Feel This shows will star smaller artists and take place in low-headcount venues to give attendees a more “physical” experience, tying the live experience with the “haptic bass” features on Skullcandy’s headphones. For those unable to attend, the brand will livestream the concerts on its microsite.

“We don’t just want you to listen to your music, we want you to feel it,” McKenna stated. “We wanted to transfer that to more emotional responses and connections on a more personal level.”

Though a music brand sponsoring a concert can hardly be considered groundbreaking on its own, (the company has even hosted ad-hoc music livestreams for the past two years) Skullcandy’s Now Feel This program marks a committed, long-term effort by the brand to integrate more completely into its customers’ daily lives.

“We want to give these emerging artists the platform to share their talent and music with our fans, who we’ve identified as hungry for the latest and the newest and the upcoming,” Taylor added. “We’ve focused on creating holistic touchpoints with our consumers and our products and our initiatives.”

Part of Skullcandy’s holistic strategy includes more diverse content offerings than just concerts. Starting on May 18, the date of the first Now Feel This concert, the audio brand will launch a podcast series featuring exclusive interviews by the bands performing.

Overall, the campaign is focused more on branding than sales. McKenna claimed that the metrics Skullcandy will monitor tend more toward social sharing and time spent watching content over sales conversions.

If the series gets enough traction, Skullcandy plans to run more concerts and expand its podcast as well.

“We’re helping our fans stay on the cutting edge of music,” McKenna stated. “It’s going back to our heritage of music as well as looking progressively forward.”

‘Jurassic World’ Wants You To Adopt A Dino

May 15 is National Dinosaur Day, according to Universal Pictures (though National Today disagrees), and to celebrate and promote Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom’s June 22 release date, the studio released a series of stickers, a video featurette and… an extensive in-universe microsite by a fictional dinosaur rights organization.

Featuring the same sort of mission-statement language common to many real charitable organizations, the Dinosaur Protection Group‘s website extols importance of saving the island’s dinosaurs.

“We brought the dinosaurs back into the world; it’s now our responsibility to protect these magnificent creatures,” the site’s welcome page reads. “Actually, it’s more than a responsibility. It’s a calling. A passion that keeps us going every day. And as we settle into our new office, we promise to keep you updated with all the latest news and information that we’re able to gather. Just as soon as it’s verified.”

In addition to parodic pseudo-ads, the site delves deep into the lore of the upcoming film, with posts detailing history of “dino-ethical misconduct” and monitoring the volatility of the island’s volcano (that erupts in the film). There’s even a poster for a march on Washington scheduled for September 10.

Lastly, the site urges its visitors to “adopt a dino,” letting them select from a list of the film’s animal characters in much the same way one might adopt an endangered animal or stretch of highway. Mercifully, the Jurassic World site skips the “ask for donation” step, going straight to offering the user an adoption certificate to download and share on social media.

For those willing to brag about their altruistic achievements on Twitter or Instagram, Universal is offering the chance to win Dinosaur Protection Group-branded buttons and t-shirts.

As the site states: “For those willing to stand up and speak for the dinosaurs, it’s your turn.”

‘Deadpool 2’ Marketing Ripe With Parody; Celebrity Partners

Deadpool 2 marketing is in full swing, utilizing the character’s trademark sense of humor with activities, contests, a music video and as always, a healthy dose of parodies.

Unlike most other comic book characters, Marvel’s Deadpool is self-aware. This meta approach to storytelling (and marketing) gives him free reign to talk about—and openly mock—just about anything he likes regardless of whether it exists inside the Marvel Universe.

In a video spot called “With Apologies to David Beckham,” Deadpool (Ryan Reynolds) arrives at the home of the soccer star, begging for forgiveness for a wisecrack made about him in the first film.

Deadpool has a way of showing up where he’s least expected, like on 7-Eleven cups. The convenience store brand added Deadpool 2 AR to its loyalty app, scannable codes around its stores and a number of branded retail items ahead of the film’s release.

He also appears where he’s not necessary wanted, like this birthday message from Hugh Jackman.

The red-clad mercenary took to Google, answering pressing questions from users like how to meditate and whether you should text your ex.

“Absolutely,” replies Deadpool (Ryan Reynolds) in a video response. “I suggest you text every four seconds until you die alone.”

A Google+ Community called “Ask Deadpool” was also created, inviting members to ask the character questions about whatever they liked. Responses are given in the character of Wade Wilson, Deadpool’s not-so-secret identity.

Espolòn Tequila partnered with the film to offer a limited edition gift set that includes a Deadpool 2-themed bottle of tequila and flask. The official Espolòn social channels have been sharing crudely-modified ads that replace brand names with its own, a person’s face with Deadpool’s and product images with bottles of Espolòn tequila—supposedly created by Deadpool himself.

When Canada wasn’t invited to the annual Eurovision song contest, Deadpool produced a video in protest, claiming that the snub awakened a “sleeping moose” that will force him to tour Europe.

In April, the mercenary showed his softer side (kind of) with a campaign called “Fuck Cancer.” Those who donated through Omaze were entered to win a pink version of Deadpool’s suit.

Céline Dion recorded a song called “Ashes” for Deadpool 2 and filmed a music video that includes the mercenary dancing in stiletto heels.

Fans were invited to join “Deadpool Core,” a parody of the old Mickey Mouse Club that notifies fans of contests and new marketing materials. In April, the campaign launched with a coloring page that earned over $14,000 in earned media value over four days.

With the release date of Deadpool 2 only a few days away the marketing efforts are peaking just as early reviews hint the sequel may actually be better than the original film.

Netflix Hosts Never Nude Meet-Up For ‘Arrested Development’ Season 5

Netflix hosted an Arrested Development-themed meet-up in Austin over the weekend that included the show’s famous stair car and a get together for “never nudes.”

Fans gathered at the Texas State Capitol and a parking lot on Brazos Street Saturday to join other Arrested Development fans in “never nude” attire—that is, jean cutoff shorts and not much else. The show’s famous stair car also made an appearance as part of a nationwide tour.

On the show, Dr. Tobias Fünke (David Cross) eases his phobia of being naked by wearing jean cutoff shorts at all times, even in the shower. His insistence on wearing cutoffs became one of the most memorable aspects of Arrested Development.

Fans were joined by marketing staff that “blue themselves,” paying homage to Tobias’ frequent attempts to join The Blue Man Group by covering themselves in blue paint.

Arrested Development Season 5 debuts on Netflix May 29 with a plot that revolves around politics. As Lindsay campaigns for office, the entire Bluth family is campaigning to award itself “Family of the Year.” The marketing campaign includes a website where fans can stay up to date on the stair car tour, view the show’s character bios and download images to create their own promotional materials.

Those to visit the stair car and never nude meet-ups are given promotional items for the Bluth Family of the Year campaign that include stickers, hats, posters and of course, photo ops. The nationwide faux campaign tour runs through New York, Washington D.C., Philadelphia, Chicago, Austin, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Seattle through May 20.

Netflix previously used experiential marketing for Arrested Development when it aired season 4 in 2013. To promote the show’s comeback after seven years, a replica of the Bluth’s Original Frozen Banana stand was installed in Times Square, complete with an employee in a banana costume.

In addition to giving away real frozen bananas, the campaign invited fans to show up dressed as never nudes, offering six free months of Netflix to the first eight dozen attendees who did.

Netflix released a newly edited version of season 4 called “Fateful Consequences” and has hosted a number of 24-hour contests over Twitter and Instagram under the hashtag #UltimateBluthMaster. For Mother’s Day, the official Arrested Development account asked fans to share photos of dance partners dressed alike to pay homage to the show’s running Mother Boy joke. Additional challenges will be posted every day through May 19, with winners receiving a trophy that looks like a frozen banana.