When films fail at the box office, the marketing chief is usually the first to take the blame — and to get the boot.
So when Disney overhauled its exec ranks after a string of stumbles, MT Carney found herself in an unusual position last year: Not only was she under pressure to turnaround the studio’s campaigns, she also had to sell herself to Hollywood.
Carney, after all, was new to the biz, a co-founder of Madison Avenue ad shop Naked Communications (whose clients included Coca-Cola, Kraft and Google), and part of Disney studio chief Rich Ross’ efforts to “think outside the box” when it comes to promoting pics.
Although the Scotland-born Carney had never spearheaded a movie marketing campaign, she suddenly found herself with several high-profile tentpoles.
None were easy to launch, with “Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides” the fourth installment of the franchise, helmed by Rob Marshall, a director known more for musicals, and a cast that didn’t feature series regulars Orlando Bloom or Keira Knightley. Film opened domestically to a somewhat disappointing $90 million, but sailed on to haul in an impressive $798.5 million overseas to cross the $1 billion mark.
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“Cars 2,” revved up nearly $548 million worldwide, despite tepid reviews. And “Tangled” surprised many when it was able to attract a broader audience to the female-skewing Rapunzel tale, which earned $591 million globally.
If Carney has a style it’s evident in the singular hyper-realistic photographs, bold fonts and clean, pared-down designs she uses for the studio’s marketing materials.
Her ideas can seem unconventional, using Pink’s song “Trouble” to sell “Tangled,” an animated musical, rather than songs from the film by Alan Menken (“The Little Mermaid,” “Beauty and the Beast”). For “Pirates,” she enlisted former Sony marketing chief Valerie Van Galder to consult on the campaign, which Carney admitted was due to her inexperience in launching a tentpole of such scale.
And when it comes to Disney’s films, each must perform at the box office but also inside stores as merchandise and theme parks.
Title: President, marketing, Walt Disney Studios
Role model: “My grandmother. She was kind, brave, fiercely loyal and so wise.”
Career mantra: “There’s always a better way.”
Leisure pursuits: “Spending time with my kids.”
Philanthropic passion: Promoting creativity in the arts.