Location Of Gold: Why Factual Targeted Restaurants To Fill Movie Theaters

To market the indie documentary City Of Gold to foodies, Factual had to find the right foodie hotspots, not just the most expensive.

When IFC Films’ documentary of LA Times food critic Jonathan Gold, City Of Gold, hit independent movie theaters in March 2016, its entertainment marketing agency, Sawyer Studios, wanted to make sure they got the attention of a very specific kind of audience.

Both independent cinephiles and upscale restaurant mavens were deemed “too general.” Instead, Sawyer tapped geo-data specialist Factual to find only those “foodies” who go to new and unique culinary destinations — from food trucks to adventurous, out of the way eateries — as its target audience.

Location Targeting = Efficiency

By connecting with those food fans, who would likely be interested in the excursions of the first restaurant critic to win a Pulitzer Prize, Sawyer would be able to get the most out of its ad campaign.

“Efficiency is really important to us, since we’re typically not dealing with unlimited budgets,” says Sawyer Entertainment President Zak Soreff.

“Location technology has been very important to us,” Soreff adds. “We say to our clients, ‘If you know where your audience is physically, it’s a really good predictor of whether they would be interested in your product.’ There are a lot of data sources available that try to put people in specific buckets. If I know someone has been to a movie theater twice in the last 90 days, that’s probably one of the most reliable ways to start a conversation about seeing a movie.”

Moving On To Attribution

In the end, the targeting seemed to work: Factual created a custom list of restaurants in the 15 marketing areas where City of Gold was showing. The mobile ads got a 0.21 percent clickthrough rate during the campaign’s three-week run — a 40 percent CTR gain compared the average mobile placement of 0.15 percent.

While Sawyer executives concede that clickthroughs do represent a challenge when it comes to attribution — whether those people who saw the ad actually walke in and bought a ticket — Courtney Jones, digital account director for Entertainment Marketing at Sawyer Studios, says that they can view a correlation between ticket sales and the views the ads received.

Nevertheless, as Sawyer and Factual have continued to partner on campaigns following that first experience on City of Gold, they have been able to focus more on attribution.

“For this campaign, we weren’t measuring visitation,” Jones says. “That is something we have been doing in the year since. We’ve created mobile units that require a secondary engagement that goes beyond the clickthrough. We can now look at the clickthrough for a ‘buy ticket’ button. For City of Gold, we did see the value of looking at the click as an indictor of someone who would buy a ticket. One of the challenges we have as an agency representing movie studios is that we don’t own the point-of-sale, so that has historically been difficult to track.”

As other location tech providers have sought to differentiate themselves through guaranteed placements and specific measurement tools that promise to directly connect online-to-offline visitation, a Factual executive offered a few other details about how the company has sought to meet clients’ demands in that arena: “We participate in a number of partnerships where we feed in deterministic place visit data. It’s an exciting advance. We’ll be able to look at foot-fall and look at whether you served someone a mobile ad and did that same mobile device visit a theater.”

Removing The Guesswork

To attract people who were interested in specific kinds of restaurants, location attributes became more essential than using cookie-based behavioral targeting, Soreff says.

“You can tell someone at a trading desk that you want to target people who are into fine dining and they’ll target off of consumers’ credit card data, their online browsing behavior, what apps they’ve downloaded,” he says. “But it’s not as reliable as saying, ‘I want to target people in these 15 markets that go to these specific restaurants.’ It gives us the ability to zero in on a specific kind of diner, as opposed someone who is just going out to eat.”

LA Times’ Jonathan Gold in a scene from the documentary City of Gold.

“We wanted to get to the food blogger, the unique person who would be a fan of this film,” says Ocean Fine, VP of Agency & Strategic Accounts at Factual. “We have hundreds of different ‘place categories’ that allow us to look at restaurants and food at a deeper level.

“We wanted to target people beyond those who go to food trucks or steakhouses or sushi or vegan restaurants,” Fine adds. “We looked closely at unique food places in the markets we wanted to hone in on. We weren’t making guesses about people who go to restaurants in general.”

Location At The Movies: The Sequel

In addition to adding attribution to the mix since Factual and Sawyer first worked on City of Gold, the studio has also used the company’s geo-data to assess which of its creative units have performed better.

“Factual didn’t influence the creative messaging or insights on this campaign, but we’ve since leveraged Factual’s data with video,” Jones says. “In a couple of recent cases, we found that full-length trailers have done better for us than shorter ones. The idea was that fans are really dedicated and want to see more information and details, and they’re willing to spend the time.”

The space has become more crowded the past few years, and while the concern about commodification of location technology and analytics has been building, Sawyer has decided to continue working with Factual based on what it views as its focus on deterministic (i.e., 1-to-1 matching of data sets based on certain unique identifiers and actual outcomes) versus probabilistic (extrapolating from data to suggest likelihood of an outcome) analytic forecasting models.

“Across our whole business, we’ve always been suspicious of probabilistic methods,” Soreff says. “If you look at the companies that do location-based attribution, a lot of them are probabilistic. They’re modeling out from a panel or a questionnaire, or look-alike modeling that—for a speciality campaign that’s not going for huge scale— is pretty unreliable.”

“It speaks to the way we approach the market. Factual is a data company, not a media company — we don’t sell media,” adds Fine. “We leave it up to Sawyer and other clients to make the decisions about the kinds of media they want to use to target someone. We just promise the use of actual — factual — data.”

About The Author
David Kaplan David Kaplan @davidakaplan

A New York City-based journalist for over 20 years, David Kaplan is managing editor of A former editor and reporter at AdExchanger, paidContent, Adweek and MediaPost.