MEDIA & ENTERTAINMENT
UNIVERSAL PICTURES' SING
Universal Pictures and Illumination Entertainment, the animation studio behind the Despicable Me franchise, returned in winter 2016 with Sing, an uplifting and relatable animated movie about the power of music and
dreams. Our mission was to successfully launch this new property across international markets, dominating the challenging Christmas environment.
In a movie world dominated by franchises, we were launching a brand new property. That meant no pre-existing awareness on which to build. We were starting from scratch.
Our box office targets were ambitious, demanding that we break out of the traditional kids and parents audience for animation films, and attract mainstream cinemagoers.
On top of this, for the first time Illumination Entertainment decided to release the film across December and January, rather than the traditional summer release. Our message risked being lost in the seasonal clutter.
We would also have to battle competition from Christmas blockbusters such as Star Wars: Rogue One and another new animation, Disney’s Moana.
What we had on our side was a great concept: testing showed that the idea of the film, animals competing in a talent show, drove interest because it provided a chance for fun, comedy and entertainment at the most feel-good
time of year.
Another important driver of interest was abundance of recognisable pop hits in the soundtrack (more than 85!) giving us great content that could connect.
As with any other brand new animation film, we knew it was important to put a strong focus on the characters. We had to tell their back stories and let
audiences get emotionally involved in their struggle for success.
We also knew that talent shows, despite falling ratings, were still some of the highest rated TV shows in our key markets, delivering millions of impacts,
especially nearer the final episodes.
To achieve our target of box office sales, we needed to ensure strong levels of awareness and interest for Sing amongst parents, kids and general
Universal Pictures research told us that TV still plays a major role in advertising films to families and younger teens, thanks to its ability to deliver cutthrough and drive intent. However, given the seasonal clutter we needed a smart and creative way to approach this.
Our strategy was to leverage the concept of the film and partner with major talent shows across our key markets, shows such as the X Factor in the
UK and Das Supertalent in Germany, which would offer big cultural moments in which we could embed Sing and its characters in a natural, relevant
Not only would we advertise strategically around these shows, we would also activate deep integrations of Sing content and characters within the
We would make Sing part of the talent shows, using its animated toolkit pieces to create fun interactions between film characters, presenters and
This approach would allow us to achieve a perfect thematic and tonal fit between the film and the shows, thanks to the shared theme of following
one’s dreams and the love for music and performance, together with a good dose of humour.
This would put us in pole-position and help us stand out when it came to negotiating access, despite the fact that talent shows are sought after by a
great number of advertisers with bigger budgets at their disposal.
By blending our message within talent shows we would also reach audiences during their family entertainment time, in a relaxed frame of mind, and at
a moment when parents are more likely to let themselves be gently pestered by the kids.
It was the perfect moment to conquer their hearts with Sing.
We showed that Sing had exceptional talent.
We put our key characters on stage in the biggest talent shows in six of our key markets: from the X Factor to Das Supertalent. There was no stopping our performers.
In Australia we took over the X Factor finale: we placed an exclusive 60” trailer in the show, which was introduced
by the host, we ran 30” spots, 10” billboards and special “up next” promos. The centrepiece was a 4-minute performance by Tori Kelly, who voices Mena the elephant, and who sang a song from the film on a Sing-branded
In Germany we ran frame-split ads during Das Supertalent, showing Gunther the pig dancing to the rhythm of the performances, and Buster Moon, Sing’s theatre manager, watching as a judge. We also placed experiential booths in malls, where people could prove their talent and audition to win a real chance to join The Voice as a participant.
In Spain, during The Voice, presenter Jesús Vázquez introduced the film to the audience and announced its release surrounded by the animated characters from the film. A similar integration in Belgium showed presenter Maureen Louys interacting with Gunther in the studio.
In The Netherlands we ran a behind-the-scenes special during The Voice of Holland, set in a recording studio with heavy Sing branding.
In the UK we ran competition spots around X Factor, and bespoke character spots aired alongside the promos for The Voice, leveraging the excitement for the upcoming new series of the show. Every moment of integration highlighted the shared theme of the musical competition while putting the film characters on the biggest TV stage of all.
Our integrated media executions within each market were completely bespoke media buys. These non-standard placements gave us a clear edge over other advertisers who were targeting the same prime-time programming
using only traditional formats.
On top of cut-through, aligning with some of the biggest TV shows in these territories gave the Sing launch campaign huge scale: with our integrated activity around talent shows, we reached 100+ million impacts across
our six key markets.
And when our time came at the box office, we conquered the jury by opening at number 1 in 14 international markets. In Germany and the UK we went straight to the top of the box office – the UK result was the biggest
opening for an original Illumination title. In the Netherlands and Spain we were the third biggest film of the weekend, with Spain achieving the third best opening for an animated film in 2016. Australia opened on Boxing Day and became the biggest first day gross for an Illumination title in the country.
We beat Disney’s Moana in four out of our six key markets. Sing is now the 6th highest grossing animation title of 2016 globally, and the 4th highest grossing animation amongst non-franchise films.