Disney doesn’t want brands and advertisers to see it as just the animation company.
During its NewFront presentation in Manhattan’s West Village neighborhood, the storied House of Mouse pitched itself as at the center of the “cultural zeitgeist,” thanks to its “intimate” and “emotional” connection to Millennial and Gen Z consumers, which make up more than 70 percent of its audience.
And to appeal even more to Millennials, a large portion of whom are now young parents, Disney through its Disney Digital Network arm is pushing into more Millennial-friendly brand modes, like Google’s voice assistant Home and even podcasts.
Kathryn Ferrara, head of branded content at Disney, said ad spending on the audio category, including podcasts and smart speakers, is projected to hit $19 billion by 2022. In an effort to get in on that, Disney is launching at least one podcast this year with “Disney Backstage,” which will look into the production stories behind movies like “The Lion King.” A teaser for the podcast revealed that, while the movie was still in development and nameless, those involved referred to it as “Bambi in Africa.”
There’s also a new partnership with Tastemade, a video-centric online cooking platform, which is involved in three Disney-themed cooking shows aimed at Millennials, and a new e-commerce platform more focused on apparel.
But Disney is aware that its stable of characters, most of them animated or digitally engineered in one way or another, is the core of its business, and it wants brands and advertisers to see them as viable properties for collaborations and brand launches.
Mickey Mouse even made an appearance to extend a physical hand for brands to join in on the months of scheduled “celebration” of his 90th birthday, which kicked off in March with Opening Ceremony’s Disney-themed spring collection, shown at Disneyland in Anaheim.
Star Wars and Marvel also took a moment to talk up their branded content and sponsorship possibilities with things like podcasts and “vodcasts,” or podcasts that offer audio and video recording, and movie premieres. Dan Silver, Marvel’s vice president of new media, said he wants every superhero movie premiere, of which there will be at least 10 over the next 18 months, to be “like the Oscars red carpet,” complete with video and talent interviews.
“We don’t dabble,” Silver added. “We go all in.”
Show, don’t tell, seemed to be the theme at Oath Inc.’s presentation, if one could call it that.
Instead of parading its executives on stage to talk in veiled terms about branded content possibilities and audience reach, the Verizon subsidiary, which operates The Huffington Post and Yahoo sites, along with Ryot, Tumblr and Aol, held something between a carnival and a college party hosted by Jamie Foxx. The actor said the evening was “a party in five acts.
There were food stalls and plenty of alcohol on offer for the hundreds, (yes, hundreds), of attendees who milled around the whole of Hudson River Park on Pier 26 in TriBeCa to music that could literally be heard a mile away. Few, if any, of these people were executives or advertisers — they were cordoned off in the VIP area that looked to offer a nice rooftop view of the action down below. “Look at who we can draw to your brand” seemed the desired impression.
There was also the occasional mention of new programming, like a new content partnership with Samsung, a tie-up between Ryot and LeBron James’ Family Foundation focused on education, and expansion of original video content over at HuffPost with the launch of HuffPost Life, a new vertical for the topics of parenting, personal finance, travel, work/life topics and relationships. But even that came mainly through extended, unnarrated videos during breaks in Foxx’s presumably unscripted vamping on stage.
One of those videos explained that the goal of Oath’s brands “is to build an uprising, so you can stand on something real.” Signage around the park described Oath’s audience as an uprising, but everyone was left to wonder what exactly they’re rising up against.
Foxx may not have been the best person to unveil some new female-driven content, however, including an upcoming HuffPost docu-series “Storm the Gates” about the increased number of women running for public office in 2018. He started out the evening with a shout-out to the women in the audience who “pay all their own bills” and later told all the “independent ladies” to “shake it.” He singled out one woman, told her to call him and started to give out his phone number (818-934…) before trailing off.
But no matter how party-like the atmosphere, an awareness of what the event was actually about (although not that the attendees were part of the presentation) cropped up. Soccer Olympian and World Cup champion Abby Wambach bluntly asked the brands present to support her upcoming show “Soccer Mom” about professional athletes who are also full-time parents. And Foxx said simply that the night was about spending money.
“We’re here to buy, we’re here to purchase,” Foxx said.
So much for an uprising.
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