DISNEY PARKS LOOK TO ASIA FOR NEED LIFT

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HONG KONG-Still reeling from the disastrous performance of Euro Disney and facing less than spectacular attendance at its U.S. parks, Walt Disney Co. wants to lure Asians to the U.S. and France in the marketer's first ever ad campaign in this region.

The Walt Disney Attractions subsidiary here asked Dentsu, Young & Rubicam Partnerships to determine how much money would have to be spent to attract Asians to the company's parks thousands of miles away. Armed with the agency's recommendations, Dave Simpson, Disney regional managing director in Hong Kong, plans to request approval for a marketing budget and hopes to have a campaign running by early next year.

"First we need some money," Mr. Simpson said, adding that until then, nothing else is going to happen. In the U.S., Disney last year invested $52 million to advertise Walt Disney World and $12.2 million on Disneyland, both handled in-house.

In Europe, the company broke a TV and print Euro Disney campaign last month (AA, March 21) by newly reappointed Ogilvy & Mather, Paris, which handles the $50 million account. The campaign is addressing problems, such as high prices, that resulted in the French park losing $900 million for the year ended Sept. 30.

Mr. Simpson wouldn't disclose DY&R's recommendations and said he didn't know how much money the U.S. company would be willing to invest in either consumer marketing or advertising to the travel trade in the region. But tourism is a growth market as Asians become more adventurous and prosperous, and Mr. Simpson wants a piece of that.

"It gets down to the fact that business is business is business is business, no matter where you can get it," he said. "We have offices all over the world, and their goal is to drive new business. Our job is to get people on planes and visit places like Florida and France."

He said any campaign would also play on family ties to first generation Asian-Americans living in California.

Mr. Simpson wouldn't discuss any timetables, but said that if the plan goes forward and an agency is appointed to handle creative, DY&R would be considered along with others.

The agency won the initial assignment because of its connection with Dentsu in Japan, "a very important market for us," he said. DY&R won in competition against J. Walter Thompson Co. and McCann-Erickson Worldwide.

At the same time Euro Disney was suffering from a host of well-publicized problems, attendance at Disneyland in Anaheim, Calif., was down slightly, while Disney World in Orlando saw only a 4% increase, according to Amusement Business.

"The parks are fine," Mr. Simpson said, "although things like earthquakes and other natural disasters do have an impact on your business," referring to the disastrous earthquake Jan. 17 in southern California.

This is Disney's first ad agency assignment for theme parks in the Asia/Pacific. Previously, the company has worked with Burson-Marsteller in Australia and New Zealand on publicity and promotions.

Tokyo Disneyland won't be part of the effort since it's owned and marketed under a separate deal with the Oriental Land Co., which invests an estimated $13 million annually in advertising.

Christy Fisher in Washington and David Kilburn in Tokyo contributed to this story.

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