Executives from Walt Disney Co. took some time to describe some of the new ways they are using to bring advertisers into their portfolio, all part of “Disney and the Future of Inclusive Creativity and Content,” as part of Variety Upfronts presented by Disney.
Among the new initiatives is one aimed at getting Madison Avenue to align media spending with programming that echoes themes of diversity and inclusion. “This is the right thing to do, but it’s also an opportunity,” said Lisa Valentino, Disney’s executive vice president of client and brand solutions, discussing how inclusivity initiatives shape Disney’s strategy.
“We are entertainment first and creator driven,” said Tara Duncan, president of Freeform and Onyx Collective, a new unit devoted to amplifying creative content from multicultural creators and people from a range of backgrounds. Both executives joined Brian Steinberg, Variety’s Senior TV Editor, for a discussion. “So for both brands, we really look for big fun, provocative ideas that speak directly to our audiences in a very authentic way.”
The first Onyx title is Questlove’s music documentary “Summer of Soul,” premiering on July 2 in theaters and on Hulu. The movie celebrates the Harlem Cultural Festival, the Black music and arts event which took place during the same summer as Woodstock. “It’s joyous. It really encapsulates the Black American experience, but it also makes you want to sing and dance,” Duncan said. “That’s kind of a combination of the things that we’re trying to capture with our brand.”
Duncan continued, “The vision is really to set a new standard for empowerment, access and also creative freedom for creators of color and have a slate of content that is culturally specific, but also broadly accessible.”
Valentino emphasized that Disney aims to prove how inclusivity initiatives can help grow businesses, both big and small. “We’re making a bold statement that leaning into inclusion drives business impact,” Valentino said.
She also discussed a new Disney tool that scores and optimizes ads based on inclusive casting, cultural authenticity, cultural resonance and business outcomes. “We’re really trying to provide a set of tools that can sit alongside the content and creative engines that folks like Tara are building for the company.”