DISNEYLAND'S MAGIC WISH;THEME PARK HOPES TO PICK AGENCY BY NEXT MONTH

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Now that the Magic Kingdom has its first ever VP-advertising, Disneyland is set to anoint its first ad agency since parting ways with Young & Rubicam, New York, nearly a decade ago.

Creative has been handled in-house since then. Just three months ago Paula Freeman, formerly senior VP at Davis, Ball & Colombatto, Los Angeles, was hired as the new ad chief for the Anaheim, Calif., theme park. Western International Media, Los Angeles, will continue to handle Disneyland's estimated $13 million media buying account.

"We have a very talented internal group and we don't plan to let any of them go," Ms. Freeman said. "But we want to expand our creative horizons with an agency that will work on the Disneyland brand and challenge us here to think and work in new ways."

Ms. Freeman said she sent pitch invitations to eight to 10 agencies earlier this month and hopes to have an agency chosen by Thanksgiving. She wouldn't say who's been asked to pitch, only that all are West Coast-based. Goodby, Silverstein & Partners and Hal Riney & Partners, both San Francisco, and Wieden & Kennedy, Portland, Ore., have all received letters, and Riney is said to be very interested.

Riney holds the Buena Vista Home Video account, and Disneyland may have approached other agencies which handle other Disney divisions. But neither Rubin, Postaer & Associates, Santa Monica, (The Disney Channel) nor Lord, Dentsu & Partners, Los Angeles, (some Disney Interactive work) returned calls. However, Butler, Shine & Stern, Sausalito, which has done work for Disney Consumer Products, hasn't been approached.

Disneyland is following in the footsteps of its Florida-based sibling, Walt Disney World Resorts, which last year hired Leo Burnett USA, Chicago, for its estimated $45 million account.

Ms. Freeman said Disneyland's new agency will handle local assignments as well as a national brand campaign that will launch in first quarter 1996.

That effort will tout Disneyland's heritage, but executives will be asking agencies to come up with different ways to express those brand values.

"We want to choose from a variety of looks," she said.

Still, many observers believe Disneyland will stick with a traditional approach, which favors a Riney or a Postaer, but Ms. Freeman's emphasis on creative makes Goodby, if interested, a hot candidate.

Disneyland is in the midst of its best year of the '90s, following four years of steady decline. Attendance is expected to exceed 13 million, thanks mostly to a new thrill ride based on the "Indiana Jones" movies. Creative promotions have also worked, like this month's "Mickey's Halloween Treat," which marks the first time Disneyland will retheme itself parkwide for Halloween.

However, next year promises to be one of the most competitive years ever in the Southern California theme park marketplace, with Universal Studios Hollywood introducing a thrill ride based on another Steven Spielberg film, "Jurassic Park."

Alice Z. Cuneo contributed to this story.

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