Warner Bros.' Pacific Rim is a visually striking, action-packed film - perfect for the big screen. Capturing and promoting its rich visuals on the small screen was difficult enough, but in France, where film advertising is prohibited on television, the task was even more challenging. The solution: creative storytelling on the web using high-impact ads. Warner Bros. France and its agency Labelium chose to use Google's Lightbox Ads to best showcase the film and engage the potential audience. And over the course of 12 days, the ad engaged more than 250,000 users at an impressive engagement rate of 5.66%.


  • Display visual complexity of film online
  • Create a memorable, engaging experience
  • Introduce storyline and characters
  • Reach a specific target audience


  • Used Lightbox Ads, part of Engagement Ads family
  • Implemented multilayered targeting to best reach core audience
  • Used demographics targeting and excluded certain audiences to reach a specific segment


  • 5.66% engagement rate
  • More than 250,000 engagements in 12 days
  • 4.4M impressions—at no additional cost, thanks to CPE pricing
  • Results largely exceeded expectations
February 2014

With its giant robots, enormous monsters and epic battles, Warner Bros.’ Pacific Rim is a visually striking, action-packed film. Promoting the movie’s rich visuals in France presented a unique challenge for Warner Bros. because French law prohibits film advertising on television.

“The main way companies like Warner Bros. display film footage in France is via the web,” says Guillaume Thevenin, Warner Bros. France’s marketing director. “So with Pacific Rim, the big challenge was displaying the richness, complexity and depth of the film online,” he says. The studio’s goal was to reach a targeted audience with high-impact ads that would be memorable and engaging. These ads also needed to effectively introduce Pacific Rim's storyline and characters.

Innovative format engages audiences

Partnering with Labelium, an international digital marketing agency, Warner Bros. France turned to Google for an innovative ad format that could best showcase the larger-than-life film: Engagement Ads. Engagement Ads are interactive formats that let advertisers create and scale beautiful brand messages across the web while paying only when a user engages with the ad. Warner Bros. chose the Lightbox Ad in particular, which begins as a standard IAB-sized unit and expands into a full-screen creative canvas once a user hovers over the ad for two seconds. Warner Bros.’ Lightbox Ad expanded into an eye-catching, full-screen experience featuring three different Pacific Rim trailers to best replicate what could have been achieved with a TV advertisement. The Lightbox format permitted Warner Bros. to go beyond the TV ad experience and offer deeply engaging interactions: Viewers could play games, discover the characters and scroll through the plot—all within the ad unit.

“Lightbox Ads were a great way to tell the Pacific Rim story because they enabled us to display all the different robots and characters and introduce them to the audience,” says Thevenin. “Lightbox Ads gave users the chance to engage with us prior to the movie release,” adds Laureline Ruiz-Zeghal, associate partner at Labelium. “In the absence of TV advertising, Engagement Ads are a great way to get users to engage,” she says.

Reaching the right audiences with multilayered targeting

To put the Lightbox Ad in front of the right viewers, Warner Bros. and Labelium used a multilayered audience targeting strategy. “We only wanted to talk to a very specific audience,” explains Ruiz-Zeghal. They used demographics targeting to reach the movie’s core target audience of males aged 18 to 25 as well as the extended target audience of males aged 18 to 35.

They then used contextual, topic and interest category targeting and placements across Google Display to show the Lightbox Ad on pages related to gaming, music, football, TV series and other blockbusters—pages the target audience would likely visit. “Rather than trying to contextualize the ad to pages related to the film’s content, we tried to reach our target audience in other areas that might be of interest to them,” says Ruiz-Zeghal.

Warner Bros. and Labelium also delivered the Lightbox Ad to interested moviegoers using remarketing lists. Remarketing let them show the Pacific Rim ad to people who had demonstrated interest in other Warner Bros. blockbusters such as The Dark Night and Gangster Squad.

To avoid showing the Lightbox Ad to people who had already seen the Pacific Rim trailer through parallel online campaigns, Labelium excluded certain audience lists using remarketing. “We wanted to make sure we were talking only to new people,” says Ruiz-Zeghal. “We didn’t want them to reach saturation and be sick of the campaign and movie.”

Campaign cost-effectively engages the right viewers

Over the course of 12 days, the Pacific Rim Lightbox Ad engaged more than 250,000 users at an impressive engagement rate of 5.66%. This largely exceeded Warner Bros. and Labelium’s initial expectation of a 1.5% engagement rate, a number based on previous campaigns. “The campaign was successful. We wanted to target a very specific population, and we were able to achieve this,” says Thevenin. “The Lightbox Ad allowed us to do much, much more [than TV] in terms of displaying and showcasing the film,” he says.

Ruiz-Zeghal says Engagement Ads’ cost-per-engagement (CPE) pricing is a strong advantage for her client, as Warner Bros. only pays when users choose to actively engage with the ad. This means the Pacific Rim Lightbox Ad received 4.4 million impressions at no additional cost. “CPE pricing enabled us to get our message across in a very efficient and cost-effective manner,” she says.

A story to be continued

Thevenin and his team are “very happy” with the campaign results and the capabilities of Lightbox Ads. They plan to give Lightbox Ads a leading role in future campaigns for new releases. “It is a great tool to advertise movies,” he says. “In the future, we see lots of opportunity for us with the Lightbox formats, especially those that allow us to promote several videos.”