Yahoo! movies summer program: from 200,000 to 1.2 million likes

On Tuesday March 27th, I attended my fifth Blogwell session (overall, this was the nineteenth session!) since the end of 2008, time flies! This session was taking place in San Francisco in the beautiful Golden Gate Club venue in the Presidio park, a stone’s throw from the Golden Gate bridge. Not only was the view beautiful, the lessons learnt from Yahoo! in their presentation were invaluable. Yahoo! was represented by Robin Zucker, Social Media director for the famous portal company. Her presentation was geared towards their engagement strategy and entitled “ summer movie programs”.

[photo cc by Yann Gourvennec]  

The Yahoo!’s objectives were to become more social, and increase the Yahoo! movies fan base as well as reinforce the fact that Yahoo! movies is the premier online movie destination. Generally, the focus for Yahoo! was Facebook, “for obvious reasons” Robin said, because of the amount of people involved on the popular social network.

“We are a digital company, so decided to help users decide what to see but also help them go and see the movies”. This is what prompted a partnership with a cinema house company named Regal Cinemas.

Yahoo!’s initial question for setting up the program (note: I love that term so much better than the word “campaign”) was user-centred: “What can we do that what would be relevant and interesting enough for users to share?”… which is a very good question to start from.

there is such a thing as free popcorn!

There is no such thing as a free lunch, but Yahoo! took care of the popcorn for all cinema goers in the States who were clicking their summer movie program banners! News fans, were indeed granted ‘”$6 worth for a small bag of pop-corn when they went to the cinema” through a coupon, Robin explained.

But the “key piece was the offline exposure in theatres” she added. Yahoo! decided to partner with Regal Cinemas which is one the of the largest network of cinema houses with 90,000,000 visitors throughout the Summer period (a rich period for film launches,such as Harry Potter and the smurfs as examples for the Summer of 2011)

2 distinct means of entry were chosen for users to engage in the program

  • In Cinema theatres, there were placements of banners about the popcorn offer;
  • Online, Yahoo! launched the microsite

A mobile microsite was also put together. The site was leading users to the dedicated Facebook fan page. A great part of the program was to enable people to use social check-in (Facebook had just improved the system and that was providing additional exposure for Yahoo!).

mobiles and smartphones still a big challenge

However, “asking users to use their smartphones is a big challenge” Robin added because it puts the onus on the user who is “being asked to do something different”. Similarly, the online experience was key as the main site was the main driver for visits. People would enter their phone number and the coupon would be sent over to their smartphone, then they could initiate social sharing, and then they’d get free popcorn … Well, as long as they had a smartphone! Robin concluded, that “mobile isn’t easy, because people are sometimes confused”.

1.2 million new Facebook likes!

Yahoo! went from 200,000  to 1.2 million likes and surpassed its initial objectives by 400,000 fans! “Those promotions initiated a lot of buzz for Yahoo!” Robin added:

  • to start with, it generated 1.4 million more minutes spent on the Yahoo! movies website;
  • besides, it also generated 200,000+ social check-ins at Regal cinemas
  • and $1 m worth of free popcorn was munched by Yahoo! movie fans

What Worked well according to Robin:

  • it was tied to an event, Yahoo! didn’t create anything, but decided to build on something that was already happening;
  • the partnership with Regal Cinemas proved very successful;
  • agency partnership allowed program optimisation in real time;
  • flexibility after program launch;
  • the offer was relevant and highly sharable.

What didn’t work so well according to Yahoo!

  • there are some limitations with standard Facebook applications, which doesn’t allow cobranding or has no ability track deal exposure and is limited to smartphones, which tended to exclude certain users;
  • the national chain coordination was a challenge (on site posting etc.);
  • users without smartphones also were the “loudest” in social media;
  • challenges with mobile coverage;
  • training the staff locally

Q&A session

Was there much attrition after the program?
There was little attrition after the event because the event was very relevant. There is always a small level of attrition, but it’s minimised when the program is good and matches the public’s requirement.

Why hasn’t Yahoo! created its own social media platform?
There is a strategic partnership between the 2 companies, 80% of Yahoo! users are already on Facebook and besides, education is an issue so it would be more difficult for Yahoo! to launch their own platform.

ROI? How do you measure?
In general, it’s not easy because we don’t get all the numbers from Facebook but track the value of a Fan on visits and clicks and as Yahoo! is valued through content advertising, having more traffic allowed additional and new advertising opportunities.

Yahoo’s free lunch

Yahoo Logo
Yahoo Top USER award program

Two days ago, when opening my browser, the homepage of which is my Yahoo! mail box, I got a message warning me that I had been granted top user status. The reward was to follow.

I have had a Yahoo! mailbox since times immemorial. More than 10 years for sure. Now I understand why so-called “digital natives” are said to hate e-mail. It is a generational issue. We sort of grew up with it in our professional lives. Youngsters on the contrary favour instant and text messaging; to them e-mail is what is being used to to send messages to your friends’ parents.

As a result, despite my reluctance regarding the excessive usage of e-mail messaging (re. my article on the subject here) I realise now that I was granted that award that I am therefore a heavy user of this stuff. The sheer amount of time I must have spent on the Yahoo! e-mail system is just staggering. But this event also triggered the following thoughts:

  • a. it means that my e-mail usage has been tracked and traced by Yahoo! I don’t really have an issue with this personally, I’ve got nothing to hide. But yet, when did I last agreed to this and where?
  • b. (more positively) the new Yahoo! interface, all Ajax-based, is responsive, user-friendly and is a good substitute to “fat client” messaging clients like the antiquated Outlook Express or Eudora. In fact, I merged all my e-mail address into that one as soon as the new Yahoo! interface was made available. Besides, additional Yahoo! Go 3.0 and the mobile Internet version ( makes it possible to answer e-mail on the go.
  • c. it doesn’t take much to please a free customer. For one, I was happy as can be as soon as I read that I was granted the reward. Secondly the award in question was mostly made of being granted larger e-mail sizes (20 MB) which isn’t much use to me however. Thirdly I’m writing about it on his blog which means that I must be very happy about it. Lastly, I haven’t had any more details about this so-called reward. A more specific e-mail was to be sent to me but I haven’t received anything yet.

Having said that, receiving rewards for your loyalty for a free service is not bad after all, and possibly better than what you get for paid subscription services. What did I ever get from my cable TV operator
for instance except shaky service and technical problems?

At the end of the day, we were wrong to badmouth the late ‘new’ economy. It certainly went bust, but who can tell that today’s financials crisis isn’t going to end up any worse? Eventually, Yahoo! is stillhere to grant kudos to its nonpaying users. Lehman Brothers isn’t. A free – even frugal – lunch is always a good thing as long as it lasts.

  • Yahoo’s TOP USER AWARD Page