Disney Expands Tech Stack and Rolls Out Key New Ad Types and Audience Targeting Features

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On Thursday March 3rd, The Walt Disney Company sent a clear message to the advertising community by kicking off their Upfront/NewFront season with a major presentation entirely dedicated to data, ad-tech and new advertising units. What just five years ago would likely have been a quick mention to ad buyers during their big Lincoln Center presentation is now core to their adverting efforts as the company was one of the first to fully recognize the foundational shift that that the media buying business has made to data-driven and programmatic investment.

Interestingly, although there were some subtle allusions, Disney confirmed that sometime in 2022 there will be an ad-supported, lower-cost subscription version of Disney+. No details on timing or costs have been released as of this writing.

The key message of Disney Advertising's Unrivaled Tech + Data Showcase: We have all bases covered, from huge scale to privacy to usability and innovation in new ad unit types.

With the growing emphasis on consumer privacy and the changes being brought to the industry by Apple's privacy efforts, the death watch on the cookie, and the recent announcements from Google about the eventual end of tracking on apps, Disney Advertising is all-in on the Clean Room solution bringing in tech partners: Snowflake, Infosum and Habu for data storage, privacy-compliant data matching, and easy to use graphical interfaces. According to Kelly Metz, Managing Director of Advanced TV Activation at Omnicom Media Group, the Disney Advertising offering, "sets the standard of media accountability. It's where we need to go. It allows us to do it at scale." With the opening up of ad inventory on Disney+, that scale is very likely to see a dramatic increase.

In the measurement realm, Disney Advertising reiterated their commitment to participation in Nielsen One, but also expanded on their partnership relationships with Comscore and SambaTV with Omnicom Media Group and Publicis. According to Lisa Valentino, Executive Vice President, Client Solutions & Addressable Enablement, "It is our responsibility to deliver the best measurement capabilities for our clients that give them visibility into effectiveness and outcomes across our vast portfolio of premium content."

Disney also announced that they will be expanding their multi-year relationship with SambaTV, bringing their True Reach and Frequency measurement to agencies and holding companies following a successful trial with automaker Hyundai.

Disney Advertising's considerable effort in programmatic is experiencing explosive growth and success. They are now offering over 1,800 audience segments from over 100,000 attributes, all first-party owned by Disney. The Disney Audience Graph includes over 100 million HH IDs, 160 million connected TV IDs and 190 million device IDs. According to Jeremy Helfand, Senior Vice President and Head of Advertising Platforms at Disney Advertising, more than 8,000 video campaigns used Disney's Real-Time Ad Exchange in the last year.

Helfand announced that Live Sports inventory will also be included in the programmatic supply, pointing out that companies can now take immediate advantage of games that go into overtime.

Helfand also announced new ad units, in particular to films "without disrupting the user experience." Leaning heavy into nostalgia, Disney Advertising will be recreating the classic pre-film "Let's All Go To the Lobby" trailers that drove cinema goers to the concession stand pre-film. "Let's All Go to the Pantry," the 2022 version, will incorporate brands and incorporate commerce functionality. Helfand jokingly sang the famous jingle, but probably is best suited for ad tech sales.

An additional ad opportunity will center around a trivia game, "Know Your Movies," which is "centered around contextually relevant factoids about the film, filmmaker or genre of the film that the viewer is watching," Helfand said. He also hinted to brand imagery/logos digitally integrated into live sports viewing on ESPN with interactive commerce capabilities.

Finally, Disney is expanding its Self-Serve business, opening up to agencies and launching an on-demand curriculum to empower underrepresented-owned small businesses. The agency pilot program opportunity will be given to 25 local, performance and independent agencies this spring.

Overall, strong announcements from Disney Advertising Sales around data and tech for the second year is underscoring that they are taking and leading in the ad side of the business just as strongly as they are in the content and creative side of the house. In the digital era, Disney has emerged as a true converged leader.

Our Simon Applebaum also weighed in on this event. Read his report here.

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