Disney on the down-low

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What's the value of an entertainment brand name? For Walt Disney, sometimes not that much.

Walt Disney Co.'s brand name association with its entertainment products are legendary-with the Disney name featured prominently on everything from movies to coffee mugs.

Now, one Disney unit, Disney Imagineering, mostly known for its work on the company's theme- park rides, is about to launch its first interactive computer game, Ultimate Ride, with little mention of the Disney name.

The game, which has been produced only for a PC platform so far, will have a higher that average marketing campaign with a $3 million TV budget when it launches Sept. 25, according to executive familiar with the PC market. Targeting males 18- to 39 years old, Disney's ad agency, Ayzenberg Group, Pasadena, Calif., is developing a marketing program including a Web site and packaging design, as well as TV, banner ad, and print creative.

But virtually missing from all of the marketing is a Disney logo. Only a half-inch logo design is printed on the software box. The most visible lettering is the word "Imagineering." But above this, in even smaller lettering, is the word "Disney."

No doubt, marketing analysts note, using the Disney name can turn off some consumers-especially for older, edgy computer products that target young males. The Disney name has its strongest association with parents and small children.

Previously, the Azyenberg Group has worked with Disney's main computer game unit, Disney Interactive, for work on a number of titles including "Atlantis" and the upcoming "Monsters Inc." Now, under the guidance of the Disney Interactive group, the Imagineering unit was brought into the mix.

"We wanted something that was going to denote to the audience a level of detail with a more adult mentality," said Jamie Berger, director of marketing for Disney Interactive. "We are going to be on television. That is something very rare for the PC gamer market."

It's no coincidence that Disney Imagineering is doing Ultimate Ride, a simulation game where participants can build and ride a roller coaster and put their creations online so others can experience them. Disney Imagineering builds real roller coasters for Disney theme parks.

Using the Imagineering name is a drawing card in itself because of its association as the creator of roller coasters. "Guys who are gamers would recognize that," said Jen Palmieri, chief strategist & account services director for Ayzenberg.

This isn't the first time Disney has used a no-Disney name marketing approach. In the 1980s, the company was successful in launching movie studios for adult-themed films under the Touchstone Pictures and Hollywood Pictures brand names.

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