Disney Splits $1B Media Review Between Carat, Publicis Groupe

Carat to Take on Media Duties for Parks and Resorts; Publicis to Nab Studio, Home Entertainment, Interactive/Gaming Businesses

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The Walt Disney Media Co. is expected to split its $1 billion media account between Aegis' Carat and a Publicis Groupe consortium, following 10 years with incumbent Starcom, which opted not to defend.

The decision comes after a three-month review that included participants such as WPP's Mindshare, a consortium of agencies at Omnicom Media Group, Carat and the Publicis consortium. Carat is expected to take on media duties for the parks and resorts business, while Publicis is expected to nab media duties on the studio, home entertainment and interactive/gaming businesses, according to executives familiar with the matter. Agencies either could not be immediately reached or referred calls for comment to Disney, which did not return requests for comment.

Disney was No. 7 on Ad Age's 100 Leading National Advertisers report with more than $2 billion in U.S. ad spending, with $399 million on measured media for Walt Disney Pictures, $48 million on Miramax films and $176 million on home entertainment 2009, according to Kantar Media. The company spent an additional $124 million on measured media for its parks and resorts businesses. Other Disney media brands, including ABC, Disney Channel and ESPN, will continue to be handled by Starcom.

In an unusual move, after the announcement of the review, Starcom CEO Lisa Donahue told the shop in a meeting that was telecast to the entire U.S. operation that defending the business wasn't a sound use of time for the agency. She did, however, note in that meeting that Starcom would do its best to work with Publicis to come up with a new solution to pitch Disney.

Vivaki CEO Jack Klues is understood to have cherry-picked a SWAT team for the pitch from across the holding company, including executives from Optimedia, Mediavest, Digitas and Razorfish. Zenith was excluded due to its relationship with Fox.

The review was led by MT Carney, president-marketing at Walt Disney Pictures, who has been overseeing a controversial overhaul of the studio's marketing department. She raised eyebrows in Hollywood when she appointed former Sony Pictures marketing chief Valerie Van Gelder to run the campaign for summer tentpole "Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides," and has also restructured the marketing group to include "brand leads" for its live-action, animation and Marvel marketing departments.

Yet all the shifts have yet to result in a runaway hit for Ms. Carney since she took the reins last April, save for last summer's "Toy Story 3," which already had years of built-in awareness. Summer films "Prince of Persia" and "The Sorcerer's Apprentice" both underperformed in the States, and this December's "Tron Legacy" barely recouped its $170 million production budget domestically. Look for summer sequels like "Pirates" and Pixar's "Cars 2" to really test the mettle of Ms. Carney and Disney Chairman Rich Ross, whose first full slate of greenlit pictures goes into effect with April's "Prom."

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Kunur Patel and Rupal Parekh contributed to this report.

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