OGILVY, MICKEY & PALS TO THE RESCUE

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PARIS-Ogilvy and Mather's agency here turned out to be a big winner in last week's agreement between Euro Disney's banks and U.S. parent Walt Disney Co. to grant the financially troubled theme park a new lease on life.

With closure of Euro Disney averted, O&M gets to head a marketing offensive designed to turn consumer attention away from balance sheets and back to Disney characters and attractions.

Euro Disney officials wrapped up a top secret three-month pitch last month by retaining O&M for a pan-European TV and print campaign that starts March 28 and continues to June. O&M, which staved off challenges from D'Arcy Masius Benton & Bowles, Euro RSCG, TBWA de Plas and DDB Needham, has been involved with the estimated $50 million-plus account since the park opened in April 1992.

A Euro Disney executive said O&M "has always done great creative work for Euro Disney," but up until now has been implementing campaigns created by Euro Disney's in-house creative department, working on a project-by-project basis.

She added the relationship will now be expanded and consolidated. "We're building a creative team by shifting our people to work at Ogilvy. The [O&M] Paris office will be running everything for Europe and really taking charge."

Euro Disney quietly decided to retain O&M nearly a month before last week's refinancing package that calls for halving the park's debt to $1.73 billion through a new rights issue worth $1 billion, to be underwritten roughly 50-50 by the banks and Walt Disney Co.

Concessions will be made on both sides, with the parent company agreeing to waive certain payments from the French park for five years and the banks agreeing to defer some payments.

Despite its good work for Euro Disney, O&M found itself battling for the account as Disney executives mulled approaches to reinvigorate their marketing effort in the wake of the anticipated refinancing deal.

But now O&M has clearly earned the confidence of the park's cautious and traditionally control-centered management. In an unusual staffing arrangement, Euro Disney creative people will be part of a team of 20 creative and 10 account staffers working on Disney campaigns out of O&M offices.

The upcoming European campaign will take a dual approach. TV spots will continue luring younger visitors with ads revolving around Disney's popular "Aladdin" film character. Meanwhile, an unfolding series of print ads will stress attractions and events, including the recently opened Temple of Peril ride, Storybook Land opening in May, Donald Duck's June 9 birthday and the June 20 inauguration of the Nautilus attraction.

Print ads will also inform consumers of the least expensive and easiest ways of reaching Euro Disney, and draw attention to such dates as the expected May 6 opening of the Euro Tunnel and May 26 opening of the park's station for high-speed trains.

Other ads will tout affordable packages, including the spring two-day, one-night ticket for $85, including breakfast.

Having resolved its most pressing financial problems, Euro Disney's emphasis will focus on the park and, as one executive put it, "the wonderful things it has to offer."

According to an executive at another agency involved in the Euro Disney pitch, O&M won the competition by coming up with inspired creative work while its rivals struggled a bit.

Both the banks and Walt Disney Co. cautiously predicted that Euro Disney could turn a profit as early as the fiscal year ending September 1995, after posting a $900 million loss in 1993.

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