Disney Again Looks to Twitter for 'Sorcerer's Apprentice'

Studio Expands Its Paid Promotions on Twitter After Success of 'Toy Story 3'

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Disney's "Sorcerer's Apprentice" opens in theaters this weekend, and the studio is again trying a new paid ad unit on Twitter to get the word out.

Twitter envisions @EarlyBird as a promotion for marketers with a product or service with a limited shelf life where word has to be disseminated quickly.
Twitter envisions @EarlyBird as a promotion for marketers with a product or service with a limited shelf life where word has to be disseminated quickly.
The studio, which was the first to try Twitter's "promoted trends" ad unit to advertise "Toy Story 3," is also the first to try Twitter's new @EarlyBird service, a sort of "deal of the day" promotion announced by the company last week.

At around noon, Disney will send out a message on Twitter offering a two-for-one deal on tickets purchased on Fandango; Twitter will re-tweet the offer through @EarlyBird, which Twitter envisions as a promotion for marketers with a product or service with a limited shelf life where word has to be disseminated quickly.

Disney is paying for the service, though Twitter isn't disclosing how the deal was structured. Twitter product manager and former YouTube exec Shiva Rajaraman said the company is exploring both a flat fee and transaction fee for the service.

"Influencers know they can follow @EarlyBird to have a great source of early deals in a given category that they can then amplify to their own followers," said Mr. Rajaraman.

Right now, the Disney offer and others will go to all followers of the @EarlyBird account; there about 45,000 today, though Twitter is promoting the service on its homepage, calling it "a thrifty bird that lays golden eggs."

Disney will send out a message on Twitter offering a two-for-one deal on tickets for 'The Sorcerer's Apprentice' purchased on Fandango.
Disney will send out a message on Twitter offering a two-for-one deal on tickets for 'The Sorcerer's Apprentice' purchased on Fandango.
Ultimately, Twitter wants to target these offers at users' location, stated interests, or even the content of their messages. "What we're excited about in the future is how it will work on a geographic or interest basis, fashion versus tech or San Francisco versus the rest of the U.S.," Mr. Rajaraman said. It will also take suggestions from users on what kind of offers they'd like to receive on @EarlyBird, which Mr. Rajaraman says have already started rolling in.

Also in the future Twitter would very much like to be able to complete transactions through its own payment service, which would allow it to more seamlessly take a cut of the offers it disseminates, as well as allow users to pay each other for goods and services.

Disney has plenty of its own followers to whom to promote its films. Disney Pictures' account has 54,000 followers, while Disney Pixar, which released "Toy Story 3," has more than 641,000. Twitter disclosed in June that 125 million users had signed up for the service.

Hollywood sees Twitter's ability to build near immediate word-of-mouth as both powerful and terrifying. Pixar's "Toy Story 3" raked in $109 million on its opening weekend, a record for the studio, though hard to tell what if any impact Twitter had on box office. Disney is also buying a "promoted trend" for "Sorcerer's Apprentice."

But Twitter can disseminate poor word-of-mouth just as fast.

"In the old days, you could fool an audience for a weekend," said "Hostel" director Eli Roth during a recent panel on Twitter's effect on movies covered by LA Weekly. "Now with Twitter, there's no escape -- if you've made a shitty movie, people know within 15 minutes of the first show this thing sucks ass."

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