Disney Selects Buder Engel Agency for Mobile Launch

$50 Million Effort Opens Battle Against Major Cellphone Carriers

By Published on .

SAN FRANCISCO (AdAge.com) -- Walt Disney Co., poised this summer to go head-to-head with the nation's major carriers in a battle for share of the family cellphone market, has hired San Francisco agency BuderEngel & Friends for an anticipated $50 million-plus launch.

Disney Mobile's primary strategy is to target moms wanting to control cellphone use and access, executives familiar with the situation said. To reach moms, the phones offered by Disney Mobile will include a number of exclusive control features planned for announcement in early April. Those features, one executive said, are designed to "make sure the children use phones responsibly," possibly including features such as control over the number of minutes used and when they are used. "It will be a better way of connecting people and families," the executive said.

Disney Mobile's Web site bills it as "a phone that gives moms what they need and kids what they want." Other selling points listed on the site include "simple, straightforward controls for ease of use; countless customization options for personalization; usage controls that let you tailor your phones to your family's needs."

No mouse ears
Disney Mobile phones, from a number of handset providers, will not "have Mickey Mouse ears stuck on it," said the executive, but will look like an ordinary cellphone with a discreet Disney Mobile logo on it. Collectors' editions may be available from time to time. Content from the entire Disney content collection will be available on the phone, from princesses to pirates.

The phone will target moms with kids from 8 or 9 on the younger end to about 14, perhaps a little older for girls. According to a July 2005 Harris Interactive study, 12% of 8- to 12-year-olds have cellphones, while 49% of teens age 13 to 15 have cellphones. Of children 13 to 17, 62% are on family plans, while 15% are on prepaid plans and 23% are on standalone monthly plans, according to NPD Group's Mobile Consumer Track.

Already, there are a number of kiddie phones in the marketplace, ranging from those with limited access such as Firefly Mobile and LG's Migo to Mattel's MyScene phone, which allows parents to reward children for doing things like chores with extra talk time.

Nevertheless, "by the time kids are 10, they want the phone their parents have," said Julie Ask, senior analyst, Jupiter Research. Yet, "There are horror stories of parents with huge cellphone bills," she said.

Disney Mobile is the second virtual phone service from the Walt Disney Co. Late last year, through its ESPN media network, it launched ESPN Mobile, which features sports content. While some of ESPN's service offerings are on the high end with some volume-use plans costing over $200 a month, the Disney Mobile phone is expected to be priced competitively with family offerings. The phones will be sold online and through retailers and Disney.
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