DISNEYLAND HIRES ITS FIRST AD VP

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The happiest place on earth is getting serious about advertising.

Walt Disney Co. has hired the first-ever VP of advertising for its flagship theme park Disneyland effective July 5. She's Paula Freeman, now senior VP-group account director for Davis, Ball & Colombatto, Los Angeles.

Ms. Freeman joins a new team of executives charged with reinventing Disneyland by Disney CEO Michael Eisner. The others include Paul Pressler, former Disney Store head and now president of Disneyland, and Michele Reese, a former Universal Studios executive and now senior VP-marketing.

In an interview with Advertising Age, Ms. Freeman said the new Disneyland team will first take an objective look at the park. One possible tack could be a return-to-the-roots marketing approach, capitalizing on Disneyland's heritage. Given Colombatto's strength in retail marketing, Ms. Freeman said she plans to bring that perspective to her new job. Disneyland advertising is handled in-house; no agency review is planned for now.

These Disneyland developments follow last week's announcement of a new theme park project: Disney's Wild Animal Kingdom, a 500-acre, $760 million extension to Walt Disney World in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., to be built in the next three years. The $45 million ad account for Disney World is handled by Leo Burnett USA, Chicago.

"Absolutely there will be corporate sponsors," a Walt Disney World spokesman confirmed.

At Disney headquarters in Burbank, Calif., a division called Corporate Alliances strikes up exclusive relationships with marketers, including Delta Air Lines and General Motors Corp.

Disney did run afoul of Mutual of Omaha, whose long-running TV show is called "Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom." But a Walt Disney World spokesman said the Disney brand name in the title should prevent any confusion.

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