Disney looks to level playing field for smaller advertisers with tech advancements
Walt Disney is looking to level the playing field for small-to-medium size businesses and direct-to-consumer brands that typically don’t advertise on traditional TV during this year’s ad haggle, with its suite of tech and data products.
The Mouse House outlined a five-year plan, which includes unifying all of its screens, having over 50% of its business automated, and the majority of its supply addressable for both digital and linear, during its first tech showcase to agencies and clients.
The goal is to make every impression count, make it easier to buy across the portfolio and remove the friction out of the buying process, says Rita Ferro, president, ad sales, Disney.
“This will require a new way of doing business,” says Lisa Valentino, exec VP, client solutions and addressable enablement, ad sales, Disney.
This doesn’t mean the way ad deals are done during this year’s upfront negotiations will be totally upended, but Disney is making incremental steps towards this goal and is looking to woo brands that have traditionally relied on digital marketing and are likely more open to these ways of doing business.
As part of the showcase, Disney unveiled its Disney Real-Time Ad Exchange, dubbed DRAX, which is a video header-bidding solution designed to flatten the waterfall and give parity to all deals, as well as deliver choice and control to clients.
Disney will still strike direct deals, but programmatic buyers will have access to inventory in real time. DRAX will also allow biddable deals to compete alongside direct-sold and programmatic-guaranteed sales. In a waterfall model, programmatic buyers only have access to inventory that’s left over. DRAX will also allow DSPs (demand-side platforms) to sell all potential inventory, not just the impressions that historically have made it to the auction.
With this change, the goal is for demand partners to better equipped to plan for inventory and to capitalize on spikes in traffic, like around sports, Valentino says. It will also offer lower latency and give these clients more time to surface their bids and respond accordingly.
And as the industry begins to adapt to a cookie-less future, Ferro says Disney’s audience graph will become increasingly important. Disney is bringing together its first-party data and advanced modeling capabilities under what it is now calling Disney Select. Through Disney Select, marketers can select their desired audiences from its library of first-party segments, which are activated across its portfolio. These segments have been developed to meet client needs specific to categories and desired outcomes.
Disney’s first developer event comes after it consolidated its ad tech team with Hulu’s last summer. At last year’s upfront, it introduced Disney Hulu XP, which allows advertisers to buy ads across the entire digital portfolio.
Last year, Disney doubled the number of direct-to-consumer brands brands it worked with and brought in 1000 new clients that worked with the company programmatically. Valentino points to Hulu’s ad manager, which it debuted last year, as a gateway platform for small and medium-sized businesses, which are not tied to legacy ways of doing business. Disney has seen a more than 50% increase in revenue from d-to-c brands, working with companies like Third Love, which scaled its investment in 2020 to activate two sponsorships.
Disney anticipates an 80% increase in automated revenue in 2021 and expects programmatic sales to account for up to 50% of its addressable revenue by 2024.
Disney’s developer conference was the first event in a three-pronged approach the Mouse House is taking to the upfronts this year. Later this month, it will showcase (virtually) the new content coming to all of its platforms. While typically unveiling content has been the cornerstone of TV networks’ May events, Ferro says clients have long been engaging with the company around its new content months in advance, and May just “feels far off.”
So while there won’t be any major surprises come Disney’s May hoopla, Ferro says it will be an opportunity to put everything together and show how the company can deliver on partnerships.