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Media Future of TV Programmatic

4 things you need to know about Disney’s digital ad sales plan


By John Glenday | Reporter

March 3, 2021 | 5 min read

Automated advertising is expected to account for around half of Disney’s total ad revenue by 2024 as the entertainment giant pushes for an aggressive 80% increase in programmatic advertising for 2021.


4 things you need to know about Disney’s digital ad sales plan

To pull off this feat, the company has created the Disney Real-Time Ad Exchange (Drax) to remove friction for advertisers wishing to view and purchase streaming ads. We review Disney’s beefed-up ad sales offering and the likelihood of it meeting these targets.

Disney is getting ambitious about programmatic

  • Disney isn’t mucking about in its quest to pivot ad sales towards the programmatic end of the system, projecting a rapid 80% rise in automated revenue this year to account for as much as 50% of its addressable and linear revenue by 2024.

  • This will be sustained by an avalanche of new clients, with Disney Advertising Sales welcoming 1,000 net new clients over the past year alone – all of which have been active buyers via programmatic channels.

  • Mounting advertiser demand for data to inform audience targeting has also contributed to a 56% rise in the volume of campaigns reliant on consumer data, contributing a disproportionate 110% revenue growth over the period.

  • Cognizant of these emerging trends, the entertainment provider is now ready to pour fuel on the fire with Disney Real-Time Ad Exchange (Drax).

Enter Drax

  • No mere Bond-villain, Drax will deliver a “highly-advanced and data-informed audience-based ad server” that will sit at the heart of the Disney platform.

  • Accompanying publicity describes this as a unified ad platform that will enable advertisers to ’maximize yield on their advertising spend’.

  • Jeremy Helfand, senior vice-president and head of advertising platforms at Disney Media & Entertainment Distribution, commented: “As Disney embarks on a single unified ad platform across linear and digital that addresses this reality and market opportunity, we expect convergence to continue in three distinct areas: planning & forecasting, reporting & measurement and cross-channel optimization.

  • “We want advertisers to be able to buy once, deliver everywhere and have common measurement for real-time optimizing campaign results with Disney.“

It is taking lessons from Hulu

  • This flurry of activity is founded upon tests conducted with advertisers on the Hulu subscription video-on-demand service, acquired by Disney in 2019 and now part of Disney+.

  • These results informed the development of the self-service Drax platform to such an extent that Disney is also said to be considering porting over Hulu’s measurement tool for tracking viewers’ post-ad responses, as well as its viewership data into its first-party marketplace.

Disney’s approach will be data-led

  • Disney’s data platform can draw upon over 1,000 distinct audiences based on household characteristics, purchase intent and psychographics – all of which can be harnessed by brands to more accurately target ads.

  • With third-party cookies falling out of favor, Disney will become highly reliant on Drax to deliver the goods to efficiently leverage its wealth of first-party data. This will be achieved by drawing data and modeling capacity together under the Disney Select banner.

  • Through Disney Select, marketers will be able to target their marketing according to their performance indicators, categories and intended outcomes.

  • Disney has also taken steps to integrate its linear and digital portfolio into Nielsen Media Impact to allow clients to plan and test solutions with Nielsen Total Ad Ratings – a third-party measurement system for cross-platform and cross-portfolio reach.

  • A collaboration with Samba TV also opens the door for Disney Advertising Sales to combine media assets across a single cross-platform measurement platform.

  • Rita Ferro, president of Disney Advertising Sales, remarked: “Leaning into our impressive first-party data, automation that drives performance and the ability to measure campaigns to optimize media buys across screens, we are pushing innovation on multiple levels.”

  • Lisa Valentino, executive vice-president of client solutions and addressable enablement at Disney Advertising Sales, added: “The Disney Platform will be unrivaled in driving business impact across marketing objectives. “This new way of doing business will be optimizable in real-time through our programmatic offerings. The buys will be data-enabled with precision targeting and built on Disney’s audience graph that can be complimented with marketer’s own data.”

Media Future of TV Programmatic

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