It is also enabling a unified programmatic approach that allows the use of client audience data for targeting and the ability to manage and measure brand frequency across its entire digital portfolio. Disney will offer a single storefront that houses all biddable video inventory and one invoice, which Rita Ferro, president, advertising sales, Disney, says will allow clients to manage frequency. The goal will be to have full programmatic inventory and guarantees, but first the company needs to integrate the back-end tech stack.
While Hulu has taken steps to help curb frequency over the last year, the problem persists as marketers buy the platform through various places: They buy directly through Hulu, through the networks whose content airs on the platform and through programmatic platforms.
“Some holding companies had a significant buy with us and a significant buy with Hulu. Now we can manage the number of ads and number of times an ad is seen and manage across brands and campaigns,” Ferro says.
Hulu has spent the last few years experimenting with various ad formats that look to reduce commercial clutter and deliver brand messages when consumers are most open to receiving them. Over the past year, Hulu introduced its pause ad, which plays after a viewer pauses the content, and binge ad formats, which are served when viewer is watching multiple episodes of a program in one sitting.
Ferro says there is a team dedicated to seeing how Disney can apply these formats and new ones to the entire portfolio.
“Hulu has really driven innovation in that space; even announcements of new OTT products have announced using those formats,” she says, referring to, among others, the adoption of the pause ad in NBCUniveral’s streaming platform Peacock.
Hulu will announce additional ad formats at its NewFront event on June 22, Ferro says.
Disney unveiled its upfront pitch during virtual presentations over the past few weeks, with each presentation tailored to individual agency holding companies and their clients.
The company’s Creative Works division, which oversees partnerships and integrations, will now include Hulu’s creative shop, GreenHouse, which is run by Scott Donaton.
Ferro says GreenHouse will have a very prominent position as part of Hulu’s NewFront.
Other announcements include a new partnership with Samba TV on an attribution solution that Ferro says is the first step in the goal of guaranteeing business outcomes. This is especially important, she says, as restaurants re-open and people begin to travel in the wake of the pandemic. This will allow Disney to assure brands that are closely watching foot traffic that their commercials are driving store visits.
Disney is also announcing it joined Nielsen’s addressable TV platform, which helps brands manage their addressable inventory and campaigns and measure results.
Of course, Disney’s upfront pitch to advertisers comes as the TV industry continues to navigate through the pandemic and waits to see when brands will have enough clarity to strike deals. There is the acknowledgement that the negotiation period certainly won't operate as usual, with deal-making expected to be elongated and more business done in scatter or on a calendar basis.
One of the biggest question marks heading into next season is the return of live sports, which have gone dark during the quarantine.
Ferro says she is excited about the progress in sports, but even if the NBA, MLB and NFL return as planned, sponsorship opportunities may change if these leagues resume without fans in attendance. How Disney brings these sponsorships to life will likely look different, says Ferro, and they are working with brands on how to execute fan engagement and second-screen engagement for opportunities including halftime sponsorships and fan section sponsorships.
“A lot of those positions are already owned and we are working with brand teams on how they come to life; it may be a combo of both in person and digital,” Ferro says.
Flexibility is expected to be one of the key deal points this upfront season. Aside from advertisers looking to revise the time frame in which they can cancel their commitments and increase the percentage of dollars they are able to pull, Ferro says some advertisers are looking for the ability to bring more dollars to the table after they strike deals without having to pay high premiums. For brands that are ready to commit in the usual time frame, they may not be able to put down as much as they would like because of limited visibility. But if things improve and the country opens up more quickly than anticipated, they may want to add to their buy without paying a different price, she says.
“What we have found over the last 12 weeks, of course there were cancellations in retail, travel and some auto, but it was nowhere near as high as we thought it would be,” she said.
No upfront event—even a virtual one—is complete without a roast from late-night host Jimmy Kimmel.
Kimmel appeared in front of a backdrop of an empty David Geffen Hall at Lincoln Center, the usual site for Disney’s upfront presentation. He poked fun at rival streaming services and took shots at the age of linear TV viewers.
Here are some highlights:
“I wrote jokes and now I am standing here like a fucking fool with nobody watching. I feel like a show on Quibi right now.”
“ABC, our network, in many ways has been well-prepared for this pandemic. Our shows have been social distancing themselves from viewers for years.”
“We are a mess: We don’t know who our boss is. Kevin Mayer quit us to go work for Chinese identity thieves. Even our executives are leaving us for a younger audience.”
“What an exciting time to be an ad buyer. At any moment the president of the United States could claim drinking your product could cure the coronavirus.”
“It’s a shame we can’t be together to do this presentation, but we can’t. There’s a vulnerable population of elderly CBS viewers we need to protect.”