Upfront/NewFront Report: Disney's Tech + Data Showcase

By Upfronts/NewFronts Archives
Cover image for  article: Upfront/NewFront Report: Disney's Tech + Data Showcase

With the coronavirus pandemic forcing all Upfront and NewFront event players into virtual showcase mode last year, The Walt Disney Company's TV empire opted to stage a set of presentations, spread out over three months, instead of just one splashy mid-May affair. A virtual hour from Disney Advertising Sales, devoted to behind-the-scenes technology innovations in data, automation and audience measurement, opened that set. Fast-forward to March 3, 2022, and ad tech was again the opening subject of a multi-event Disney Upfront cycle. Advertisers and agencies are likely to give the information offered more consideration in the wake of Disney+ announcing -- the morning after this event -- an ad-supported version of their mega-content service this fall, with a lower monthly price to subscribers than the ad-free offering. Details on the launch date, ad load and pricing are yet to be released.

The Big Message: All the innovations deployed during 2021 -- whether Clean Room, a campaign transaction process using first-party data resources, or real-time programmatic ad exchange DRAX -- are working and ready for prime-time expansion across most or all of Disney's TV services from ABC to ESPN+. Throughout the presentation, executives emphasized that current and future ad tech deployments will offer precise, actionable results while respecting consumer privacy.

Hosts: Lisa Valentino, Executive Vice President of Client Solutions and Addressable Enablement, and Jeremy Helfand, Senior Vice President, Advertising Platforms. Nice camaraderie between this twosome. Disney Advertising President Rita Ferro offered some opening remarks.

What Worked: Offering a comprehensive variety of information in seamless fashion, while avoiding an atmosphere of overload. Many a technology presentation, in-person or virtual, can go awry when people get the impression they are caught in an information tornado. Valentino and Helfand were supported by eye-pleasing graphics and turned considerable time over to client and ad agency partners from Hyundai to Omnicom Media Group.

What Also Worked: Devoting most of the last half-hour to a live segment answering questions submitted by viewers. Five Disney Ad Sales executives participated in the segment, joined by moderator Danielle Brown, Senior Vice President, Data Enablement and Category Strategy. Disney included a Q&A segment in at least one of their 2021 events. Here's hoping there will be more of this at upcoming Upfront/NewFront presentations.

What Didn't Work: Lack of clarity on Disney's "Gateway Go" approach to interactive advertising and commerce opportunities. As more smart TV sets and devices deploy artificial intelligence-fueled audio features (think Siri, Alexa or Google Assistant) where viewers can use their voice to order products and services, the opportunity to use smart TVs as a major purchasing vehicle appears increasingly a no-brainer. When commerce ideas were presented during one segment, I couldn't help but wonder how the viewer would place the order via smart TV or smartphone.

Data Points: Disney Select, the umbrella resource connecting users with a variety of ad tech applications, now documents 2,000 audience segments from National Hockey League fans to pasta lovers. More than 8,000 local, regional and national programmatic ad campaigns over the last year were transacted through DRAX. AdManager, the process opening Hulu commercial avails to a wider marketplace, now has about 75,000 businesses using this tool.

News: Horizon Media and The Trade Desk will be among the newest participants of Clean Room. Some 25 small and medium-sized ad agencies, all independently owned, will use AdManager on a regular basis in the coming months.

Parting Words:

"We're no longer living in a world of 'linear first' with digital amplification. Great technology, paired with great transparency, yields [great] results. Buy once, deliver everywhere." -- Disney Advertising President Rita Ferro

"Our first-party data drives outcomes. It's our secret sauce." -- Lisa Valentino, Disney Executive Vice President, Client Solutions and Addressable Enablement

"Viewer-first ad experiences like pause and binge ads have become mainstream in the entire industry." -- Jeremy Helfand, Senior Vice President, Advertising Platforms

For Jeff Minsky's report on this event, look here.

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