Disney World doubles spending to $250 mil

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Walt Disney Co., trying to lure back visitors to the Mouse House, will launch one of its largest-ever marketing pushes for Walt Disney World. The campaign, breaking on national TV today, is valued at upwards of $250 million, with Disney using its full complement of ABC-owned media and other platforms.

The 15-month effort, with ads from longtime agency Leo Burnett USA, includes five TV spots across broadcast and cable. A print campaign will kick in late this month, with multi-page inserts in newspapers in the country's top markets.

Corporate Partners like Visa International, Bank One, Kellogg Co., Nestle, Smuckers Co. and others are participating with media and promotional activities under the "Magical Gatherings" banner.

The effort, which represents more than double Disney's $112 million theme park outlay measured by TNS Media Intelligence/CMR for all of last year, follows a drop in revenue to $1.7 billion at Walt Disney Co. in the third quarter ended in July. Disney blamed the fall, from $1.8 billion during the same period in 2002, on "declines in hotel and theme park attendance at Walt Disney World Resort ."

Theme park attendance suffered industry-wide amid a souring economy and war jitters. To bring visitors back, Disney is focusing on the emotional bonds of vacationing with friends and loved ones, aiming to sell the park as a destination with something for everyone. "We're portraying the experience of people who travel in larger groups and with extended family," said Cheryl Berman, chairman-chief creative officer at Publicis Groupe's Burnett.

"No one else is going out and talking to this segment in a meaningful way," said Linda Warren, Disney World's exec VP-marketing and brand management. Disney has also created an online service to help groups plan vacations and sign up for behind-the-scenes activities not available to other park-goers, like private breakfasts with costumed characters, evening cruises to watch fireworks and after-hours safari treks.

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