NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- In one of the more surprising moves of an agency executive moving to the client side, M.T. Carney, partner at Naked Communications' U.S. operations, has been hired to lead marketing for Walt Disney Studios.
As first reported by The Wrap, the hire is expected to be announced by Disney Studio Chairman Rich Ross later today.
Ms. Carney and Disney couldn't be immediately reached, but Naked confirmed the move to Advertising Age.
"We are very proud of M.T.," said Paul Woolmington, founding partner at Naked. "Now we have a Naked inside Disney, and we anticipate working in a new capacity," he said, calling the move a "win-win." Mr. Woolmington stressed that the move wouldn't cause disruption at the agency as it's "bench strength is amazing."
In 2006, when Ad Age positioned Ms. Carney as a media executive to watch in its "Media Maven" report, John Harlow, co-founder of the U.K. based communications planning shop, described the Scottish-born, former Ogilvy & Mather account planner as having a "fierce intellect, and clients are just taking to her."
It now seems one of those clients she won over was Richard Ross, who for many months is said to have been hunting outside of Hollywood for a new marketing leader who could shake things up at the entertainment company and better position it in the rapidly evolving digital landscape. Other candidates for the position reportedly came from packaged-goods companies and beverage brands such as Pepsi.
The appointment of Ms. Carney also continues Walt Disney Co. CEO Bob Iger's strategy of acquisitions and executive hires with an eye for franchises. Mr. Ross was tapped last fall after successfully leading the Disney Channel to the biggest hits in its history. He excelled at creating original franchises at Disney Channel that went on to become blockbuster theatrical releases and billion-dollar licensing properties for the company, including the "High School Musical," "Hannah Montana" and "Wizards Of Waverly Place" franchises.
The franchise factor was partly behind Disney's $4 billion acquisition of Marvel, which will eventually give the studio control of some of Hollywood's biggest blockbuster franchises, including "Spider-Man" and "Iron Man," not to mention upcoming projects such as "The Avengers" and "Captain America," once existing distribution relationships with other studios expire.
The studio's current slate is heavy on third or fourth chapters in existing franchises or revivals of old properties such as "Tron" and "Toy Story 3." Mr. Ross, with his new hire, could give the studio the jolt of freshness it desperately needs.
Ms. Carney will be charged with leading marketing strategies for the studio's upcoming slate, which includes this summer's "Prince of Persia," "Toy Story 3" and "Sorcerer's Apprentice," as well as "Tron Legacy" and "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Castle." The studio is also experimenting with an ambitious new "windowing" strategy with its home-entertainment releases, making films such as "Alice in Wonderland" available on DVD within three months of their theatrical release compared to the normal five- to six-month windows.
With her knack for helping big blue-chip clients such as Coca-Cola, Kimberly-Clark and Nokia to find ways to reach their targets using digital channels and avoiding giant outlays on traditional media, Mr. Ross is likely betting on Ms. Carney to bring that kind of thinking to Disney in her new role.