Disney Accelerates Its $600 Mil. Media Review

Unlike most blue-chip media reviews, The Walt Disney Co.’s buying and plan ning search will be conducted at a blis ter ing pace. And agency executives agreed that price is likely to be the most important factor.

“They’re using all the strategies they can to maximize their dollars,” said one executive. Last year, Disney spent just under $600 million on measured media, according to CMR.

Although the source said the review “is not driven by the economy,” the decision follows a period in which the nation’s sluggish economy and business drop-off from last month’s terrorist attacks took a toll on Disney’s financial picture. Even before Sept. 11, Disney reported its third-quarter net in come was down 3 percent from the same period last year.

“Disney is clearly looking at the performance of its overall business,” said David Doft, managing director of ABN AMRO in New York. Added another executive, “The decision is going to be on buying clout.”

Disney will hear presentations this week at its Burbank, Calif., headquarters and wants to wrap up the review “very quickly,” said one source.

The lion’s share of Disney’s theatrical, home-video, theme-parks, cable-channel, interactive and Internet media billings have been handled by Initiative Media in Los Angeles since 1986. Disney is the agency’s biggest account. However, Starcom handles a small part of the account, including media planning for the two Disney theme parks.

In a letter to shops from Matt Ryan, svp/corporate brand management, contenders were asked, “What makes you special?” as well as queries about clients and “family” ties to other shops, among other subjects.

Contenders include Initiative, Starcom, the New York offices of Zenith Media and The Media Edge, and TBWA\Chiat\Day, Playa del Rey, Calif., sources said. It is unclear how TBWA\C\D would work the account, given its relationship with Omnicom media-network sister OMD, which handles Universal Studios with DDB Los Angeles.