How Disney's Culture Index is Driving Authentic Storytelling and Impact

By The Storytelling Revolution Archives
Cover image for  article: How Disney's Culture Index is Driving Authentic Storytelling and Impact

The urgency of activating and delivering on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion was palpable at the ANA Masters of Marketing Conference. Given this year's theme of "Force for Good. Force for Growth," the key message during the session on "Are your dollars spent against diverse audiences really working?" revolved around specific best practice tools and tactics that brands and media leaders have adopted to move beyond the "saying" to the actual "doing" of embracing change.

Rita Ferro, President, Disney Ad Sales shared the 4 P's mindset that Disney has adopted to ensure the financial and cultural benefits of diversity and inclusion are fully realized. The 4 Ps capture the power of people, partners, products and performance in delivering long-lasting value.

"Nothing matters more than ensuring our people's voices are heard and they feel that they matter," Ferro said, adding that equipping them with the tools and resources to make them as successful as possible was crucial.

She also reiterated the importance of ensuring that an advertising partner's needs are fully understood and then activated through cross-platform and seamless campaigns that focus on simplicity, transparency and flexibility. In terms of Disney's rich and versatile product portfolio, Ferro emphasized not only the depth of assets across sports, entertainment, news and social media but underscored how new products can be created to serve multicultural consumers as well as the rich diversity of minority business owners who can benefit from Disney's thought leadership on cultural trends and storytelling insights. "Part of our people and product strategy is our strong commitment to giving back," she explained.

The fourth P is around performance – specifically, the critical importance of measuring not only advertising performance and business results but the "how" of performance.

At a time when clients are sharing more performance metrics than ever before -- from market share, purchase intent, lift in brand and market resonance -- media partners like Disney are able to go deeper into the inclusivity and strength of the content across programming and advertising.

This is where the Disney Culture Index comes in. Building on the rich data provided by the Gender Empowerment Measure (GEM) and Cultural Insights Impact Measure (CIIM), this innovative measurement tool scores "cultural resonance in branded content and advertising based on cultural relevance, business outcomes and inclusive casting," Ferro explained.

The Gender Empowerment Measure (GEM) is an index measuring gender equality. GEM reflects the program's attempt to measure the extent of gender inequality across the world, based on estimates of women's relative economic income, participation in high-paying positions with economic power, and access to professional and parliamentary positions.

The Cultural Insights Impact Measure (CIIM) was created as an industry leading metric that validates the impact and effectiveness of cultural insights in ads and programming, making a direct correlation between culture and business performance. The higher the measure, the higher the impact on brand perception, ad effectiveness and purchase intent. CIIM has applications across advertisers, creative agencies, media planning agencies and media networks and content developers. Importantly for content creators, CIIM has also proven that cultural relevance in programming drives audience viewership preferences.

According to ANA President and CEO Bob Liodice, brands have to make progress on DE&I given the "active and dynamic environment that we're in and the fact that consumers are demanding it." He noted that although some progress has been made in understanding and acting on the drivers of diversity in terms of talent and content, much work remains on truly achieving inclusion and belonging and overcoming unconscious bias.

Tony Mokry, CMO at Cricket Wireless, shared how the brand has always had a multicultural focus in the marketplace and recently launched a campaign, partnering with Black female director, Ewurakua Dawson Amoah, for their latest "Win" campaign, showcasing their support for HBCUs (Historically Black Colleges and Universities) which have a proud history and legacy of achievement.

Given the diversity of HBCUs in terms of size and academic focus and the fact they serve a range of diverse students and communities in urban, rural and suburban settings, any campaign needs to truly capture the passion, commitment and heroism that comes with higher education in the Black community. Dawson Amoah captures this brilliantly using her "signature artistry, mesmerizing choreography and visual metaphors," said Mokry, using the best of dance, movement, culture and music to create an advertising campaign that is a perfect balance between branded content and social impact messaging.

"We partner with brands not to simply have a tactical, 'buy now' message but to create long-lasting stories taking into account the client's objective and brand purpose and connecting it with experiences and brand beliefs of partners like the HBCUs to tell truly exceptional narratives," Ferro said.

Cricket Wireless also partnered with Disney's ESPN and John Thomas Grant, Jr. with this year's Cricket MEAC/SWAC Challenge Kickoff, positioned as a historic event for HBCUs and HBCU football. ESPN showcased the opening of college football in Week 0 with the North Carolina Central-Alcorn State game, reflecting the core of ESPN's storytelling mission. In many ways, it was an education to millions of viewers about the value and richness of HBCUs, their culture and their impact on the nation through education and sports.

"Disney has been a phenomenal partner," Mokry declared. "It is not just about sponsorship. It is about how to authentically hit the community with the best of entertainment, sport and social … and then overdeliver."

The Cricket Wireless headquarters is in Atlanta, and it shares its heritage with the origins of HBCUs which also are concentrated in the Southern U.S., given most of these institutions were founded in the years after the American Civil War. In fact, Cricket's first market was Chattanooga, Tennessee, in 1999 and through much of its early growth became known as a network focused on small, rural markets.

For Mokry, the brand narrative does not end with a vibrant and energetic :30 spot but is ignited further through activation on the ground. From Cricket's Ambassador program on HBCU campuses to partnerships with Junior Achievement, Cricket gets to the heart of what systemic and lasting change looks like.

In partnership with Disney, Cricket Wireless is confidently moving forward in the market, achieving its brand pillars of hope, optimism, and resilience, and creating a blueprint for future advertisers who are committed to achieving their brand purpose through storytelling that truly resonates.

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