Disney’s DTC marketing strategy takes shape as it hands media to Publicis and Omnicom

Frozen 2 will eventually land on Disney+

The Walt Disney Company today (14 October) gave a glimpse into what its marketing strategy will look like in the streaming era – heavily promoting the sheer volume of content on Disney+ and splitting the bulk of its media between dedicated units set up by Omnicom and Publicis Groupe.

A global media review comprising the accounts of all the Disney properties kicked off in May with $2.2bn on the table. Today, sources close to the pitch confirmed the majority of the account will be split between Omnicom and Publicis, who beat off competition from Havas, Dentsu Aegis Network and the independent Horizon.

Disney did not respond to The Drum’s request for comment.

It is understood that Omnicom has retained media for the US Walt Disney Studios portfolio, which includes the likes of Pixar, Marvel and the newly-acquired 20th Century Fox assets. It has also been handed the equivalent work for Walt Disney Studios Canada, as well as the Walt Disney Television group (ABC, Disney, FX and Nat Geo) in the US.

The work, which was previously handled by the OMD Entertainment division of OMD USA, will now be managed by a dedicated client unit dubbed OMG23.

Meanwhile, Publicis has been awarded the entirety of Disney media in EMEA, APAC and Latin America, as well as an expanded account for ESPN in North America. Crucially, it has also been handed the global accounts for Parks & Resorts and the Disney+ streaming service, which launches next month.

Handled by Publicis Imagine, another new, bespoke team pulling talent from across Publicis Media and data house Epsilon, the account is a big win for the French company.

It lands days after media commentators expressed doubts on the commercial viability of Arthur Sadoun’s business plan, following a set of disappointing Q3 financials.

But in Disney+ in particular, Publicis has snagged one of the hottest accounts in media. Bob Iger, the chief executive of Disney, said it would be "treated as the most important product that the company has launched in ... quite a long time" on a recent earnings call.

The much-hyped service is earmarked to launch in the US on 12 November, and – while news of the finalized media review hit trade desks – its marketing team ramped up its consumer social comms to build the hype further.

This morning, the Twitter account for Disney+ posted “basically everything” that will be hosted on its answer to Netflix in a seemingly never-ending 255-tweet thread. The interest stirred up around forgotten titles such as 1995’s A Goofy Movie and 1969’s The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes saw the hashtag #DisneyPlus trend throughout the day.

Meanwhile its Instagram account posted a rapid-fire run through of all this movie and series content in a series of ‘tap-to-pause’ Instagram Stories. Disney+ also posted a three-hour, 17-minute compilation video called ‘Basically Everything Coming to Disney+ in the US’ on YouTube.

The overarching message from this marketing storm was that Disney+ has a staggering amount of content that it is ready to unleash. This is in stark contrast to upcoming rival Apple TV+, which will launch on 1 November with only nine original shows.

Pushing this idea of sheer volume is key to Disney’s launch marketing; the job site for Disney Streaming encourages applicants to ‘Be Part of The Story’ in directly delivering videos to consumers “at scale”.

Publicis will be responsible for siphoning this back catalogue toward consumer groups – putting its Epsilon data to good use. Yet the Disney+ marketing creative lets the bulk of work speak for itself, with only the addition of some snappy social copy.

And on August's earnings call, Iger noted Disney+ would receive "a significant amount of support" from the company's owned media platforms across "digital and analog".

This approach tallies with Disney’s attitude toward creative and media up until now: the former is largely held in house while big pushes for its products are handled by an external team.

Creative has not been put up for pitch, despite the mammoth changes occuring within the company. And while the $2.2bn media account was still up in the air last week, its executive vice-president of global marketing and sales for Parks, Experiences and Products, Jill Estorino, extolled the virtues of an in-house agency at the ANA Masters of Marketing conference.

“We don’t work with a lot of agencies,” she explained. “We have our own internal agency called Yellow Shoes ... and we have a long withstanding agency in McGarryBowen, who I consider part of the Disney family. There are a few others but it’s really a tight group.

“I think that’s important because you have to have Disney DNA to deliver the excellence we’re looking for in our creative and execution.”

She noted the company recently formed a new consumer foresight team to “focus on trends, identify opportunities and anticipate how to best move forward as a brand”.

“They help each of our businesses better understand which risks to take and which opportunities to pursue based on significant research and a deep understanding of our consumers,” she said.

Additional reporting by Andrew Blustein

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