It’s All in the Headline: Two Sides to Every Coin
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It’s All in the Headline: Two Sides to Every Coin

June 22, 2015

Allison Slotnick

At Kelton office, I am a quantitative data junkie. Outside the office, I am interested in all things related to pop culture and media, especially movies. Given these two interests, it should come of little surprise that on a Sunday evening, I often find myself reading headlines about the weekend box office performance.

At Kelton office, I am a quantitative data junkie. Outside the office, I am interested in all things related to pop culture and media, especially movies. Given these two interests, it should come of little surprise that on a Sunday evening, I often find myself reading headlines about the weekend box office performance.

As this weekend comes to a close, news and entertainment outlets are reporting that in its second weekend in theaters, Chris Pratt and Jurassic World continues to dominate. The nostalgia-inducing film sits atop the box office yet again, raking in over $100 million, as it becomes only the second film in history to top $100 million in two separate weekends. But with Jurassic World holding onto the box office crown, Pixar’s Inside Out was faced with taking the runner-up title, and I was faced with making my way through a variety of different story angles, each pitching Inside Out’s performance somewhat differently.

While runner-up status may not have been what Pixar was looking for, what was of particular interest to me was the many different ways the story could be spun. Among the things I learned about Inside Out’s performance was that it:

  • Is the very first of Pixar’s 15 films not to debut in the top spot
  • Scored the 2nd best debut for Pixar ever
  • Represented the highest opening weekend ever for an original, non-sequel property

While all of the above facts are true, if you are told one in isolation from another, you are left with an entirely different story than if you heard all facts together. With the first fact alone, it seems as if Inside Out was a disappointment for Pixar, as it broke the company’s streak of first place finishes. By the time you make your way to the third headline, you realize just how successful Inside Out was and that its second place status means very little in the scheme of things. And that, right there, is the crux of storytelling and the art of headline writing.

If these stories were written with each of these headlines as the lead, each reader would be left with an entirely different take on Inside Out’s performance. As a researcher, I find myself constantly challenged with figuring out which data point is most important to build a story around. With so many potential angles, we walk a fine line in carefully crafting the narrative that will be most representative of the data as a whole and will also be most actionable to our clients. If Pixar were Kelton’s client, would we simply tell them that Jurassic World overtook their film? If we did that, they’d think their film missed the mark. Would we simply tell them that it represented the highest opening weekend for an original film? If we did that, they may become overconfident and automatically assume they came in #1 for the weekend.

As such at Kelton, when approaching the analysis and storymaking phase, the key is always to look at the data holistically. We think closely about the hypotheses our clients go into the research with, the business objectives they want answered, and what the data itself is telling us. Presenting any of these points in isolation can skew the audience’s perspective but, when combined together, a compelling data-driven story can be told. It’s crafting these types of narratives that I find to be one of the most challenging (yet rewarding) parts of my day to day job at Kelton.

Allison Slotnick

Associate Director, Quantitative Research

Allison is an expert in quantitative research and is involved in all stages of the research process. With a background in research at both large and small research agencies and in PR, Allison brings...

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