BREAKING NEWS… EXCLUSIVE… refresh for latest: After more than a year and half in the job, and speculation since her arrival that she was going to be canned, I can confirm that MT Carney is officially out as President of Worldwide Marketing at Walt Disney Studios. Don’t expect an announcement until this week. Disney is locked down right now about Carney’s status. Of course my sources are claiming it has nothing to do with a very negative story about Carney in tomorrow’s New York Times – headlined “A Disney Marketer’s Downfall”. The 42-year-old Carney was handplucked by studio chief Rich Ross despite her having no movie biz experience. (Instead she had experienced in promoting packaged goods. “But a movie is not like a Honda,” one marketing guru reminds me just now.) You can argue that the knives were out from Day One by Hollywood’s incestuous marketing community that doesn’t want outsiders to succeed on their turf. You can argue that Carney did in herself with moronic pronouncements, an unwillingness to learn, and an eagerness to outsource. (Which is why she quickly earned the nickname ‘Empty Carney’.) The timing of Carney’s exit, though long speculated about, was kept so secret that my news caught Disney staff by surprise.
One veteran movie marketer tells me about Carney’s exit that the problem was more about what Carney didn’t do than what she did. “She didnt do anything. She farmed out Pirates Of The Caribbean 4. Stacey and Steven have their own separate Disney marketing team for DreamWorks. There’s a separate team for Disney’s animation group. And then Paramount did the last two Marvel movies.” Carney’s exit comes at a time when Disney will start marketing future Marvel films, Pixar has major releases on the horizon like Brave, DreamWorks is filling the pipeline, and Rich Ross’s studio has some very big-budget bets ahead like John Carter. One source tells me it was Carney’s idea to drop the “Of Mars” from the title of John Carter. “It’s based on a big geek book. You are taking a piece of very well known classic source material and taking the marketing hook out of it. It’s like putting it through the deflavorizer. It’s like a perfect microcosm of what went wrong.”
The Scottish-born co-founder and owner of Naked Communications, a NYC-based media planning and strategy firm, was also a former Ogilvy worldwide planning director from 2003-2006. Her appointment followed an exhaustive 5-months-long search. (See my previous, Disney Picks Movie Marketing Chief (Her Motto? “The Agency Model Stripped Naked”) My sources claim that Carney told Disney over the summer she wanted to leave the job and go back to NYC where her young kids have remained and where she has flown every Friday from LA. Now she’ll return to the NYC marketing agency world she left. But the fact is that Disney began looking for her replacement some time ago.