Disney has debuted a suite of tools and offerings for advertisers designed to unify its linear networks and streaming platforms into a streamlined home for sponsored messages.
At a tech showcase for media buyers, an online prelude to the traditional mid-May upfront, executives emphasized the versatility of Disney, especially since the company took full control of Hulu in 2019. At the time of that transaction, Hulu was generating more than $1 billion in ad revenue, with eMarketer estimating it will reach $2.7 billion this year as dollars continue to migrate to streaming.
The new lineup includes Disney Select, a way for marketers to select desired audiences from the company’s portfolio based on buyer behavior, household characteristics and psychographics. Also new is the Disney Real-Time Ad Exchange, or DRAX, which centralizes premium video bidding solution. It gives parity to all deals, offering buyers new controls while helping them achieve scale. Disney also unveiled a partnership with analytics firm Samba delivering cross-platform measurement.
“I know so many of you recognize Disney as the entertainment leader of award-winning franchises and stories that capture the hearts and minds of consumers around the world. Now, you will also see how Disney is leading the charge in enabling advertising experiences that drive innovation, precision and impact,” Disney Advertising Sales president Rita Ferro said during the presentation. “Leaning into our impressive first-party data and automation that drives performance and precision, and the ability to measure campaigns to optimize media buys across screens, we are pushing innovation on multiple levels.”
Transacting as a unified ad platform “is going to require a new way of doing business,” said Lisa Valentino, EVP, Client Solutions & Addressable Enablement, Disney Advertising Sales. “The Disney Platform will be optimizable in real-time through our programmatic offerings. The buys will be data-enabled with precision targeting and built on Disney’s audience graph that can be complimented with marketer’s own data. This is unrivaled in business impact across marketing objectives.”
Addressable advertising — an area of focus across the industry lately, as evidenced by deals recently between Roku and Nielsen, and NBCUniversal and Charter Communications — lies at the heart of Disney’s new offerings. Addressability means being able to sell ads to viewers based on a host of metrics beyond the traditional age and gender stats reflected in Nielsen ratings. Of the roughly $70 billion spent on TV ads each year, only a single-digit percentage qualifies as addressable. But the rise of streaming and advances in technology are pointing to a time when the experience on TV more closely resembles the ad experience on the internet.
In 2021, Disney Advertising Sales is anticipating an increase of more than 80% in automated revenue. Programmatic sales, a venue where 1,000 net new ad buyers have invested in Disney over the past year, will account for up to 50% of the company’s addressable and linear revenue by 2024, executives estimate.
Disney Hulu XP, a specific platform for Hulu, has seen adoption quadruple since its introduction in January, the company added.
The tech showcase and updated approach to the upfront, which will be held virtually but produced at the company’s traditional venue at Lincoln Center, led to a decision to skip the NewFronts. Hulu had been a founding participant in the online ad event, which had been held for more than a decade as a lead-up to the main TV upfronts before Covid-19 upended the calendar.
In adjusting their pitch to the ad market, Disney is emphasizing its ability to build its own technology solutions in house. The offerings announced at the tech showcase were developed jointly by Disney Advertising Sales and the tech team at Disney’s Media & Entertainment Distribution division. As a company, it now puts streaming at the center of its strategy, a payoff for its acquisition of BAMTech and integration of its operations. While ad-free, subscription-based services like Disney+ and Star have garnered their share of the headlines, the idea is to make media buyers fully aware of Disney’s ad capabilities. Traditional buyers of time on Hulu, for example, should be able to more easily benefit from peak-demand moments on ABC and ESPN, and vice versa, the thinking goes.
“We have innovative ad products rolling off the assembly line,” said Jeremy Helfand, SVP and head of ad platforms, Disney Media & Entertainment Distribution. “As Disney embarks on a single unified ad platform across linear and digital that addresses this reality and market opportunity, we expect convergence to continue in three distinct areas: planning and forecasting, reporting and measurement, and cross-channel optimization. We want advertisers to be able to buy once, deliver everywhere and have common measurement for real-time optimizing campaign results with Disney.”