Disney Keeps It ‘Real’ via UGC

Disney is trying a new marketing strategy: user-generated content. The iconic brand is introducing a campaign — dubbed “Let the Memories Begin” — that incorporates photos and home videos of consumers visiting its parks and resorts.

As the name suggests, the effort focuses on the memories families create when they visit Walt Disney World and Disneyland. Disney hopes consumers will relate to the people in the ads since they’re not actors, but real families that have shared their experiences.

“The inspiration for this effort came from our guests. Each and every day people are making memories at our parks, posting them online and sharing them with friends and family,” said Leslie Ferraro, evp of global marketing, Disney Destinations. The brand has featured actual consumers in past ads, but this is the first time it’s used content created by visitors, Ferraro said.

The user-generated content includes photos — used in print ads — and home videos, which make up the TV spot that breaks this Friday on the Today Show. The spot, dubbed “Hugs,” is a video collage of happy children at Disney parks. (The families featured gave their permission, per Disney.) The tagline remains the same: “Where dreams come true.” Disney’s lead agency, mcgarrybowen, created the campaign, in collaboration with its in-house marketing team.
The spot will air on several networks, including CBS, ABC and Animal Planet. Print ads will break in the November/December issues of People, Martha Stewart Living, Real Simple and Parents, among other titles.

In addition to the ads, Disney is calling on consumers to submit photos online capturing their “magical memories,” said Ferraro. Submissions can be made via Disneyparks.com/memories, or via the Walt Disney World and Disneyland Facebook pages. The brand will also collect memories during a tour in major cities, where a Disney vehicle will make appearances to conduct interviews with consumers.

Jacqueline Anderson, an analyst at Forrester Research, said consumer-generated content is still a fairly niche market. The actual number of consumers generating content online is pretty flat, as is the number of people who are going online to consume media, she said. However, the number of companies that are using such content is growing.

In fact, brands are increasingly going online (trolling for Facebook and Twitter comments, and watching YouTube videos — which is what Disney did) to find out what consumers are saying about them. “We found that consumers have a higher level of trust toward user-generated content and the messages that come through, compared to traditional advertising,” said Anderson.

Keeping with the theme of the ad campaign, Disney will introduce a nightly spectacular at its parks, featuring photos of real families. Starting in January, these pictures — taken by Disney PhotoPass photographers that day — will be projected in the night sky at Walt Disney World and Disneyland. Disney estimates that as many as 500 photos will be shown daily.

“We think [this approach] is more authentic, it’s credible and it’s not something we’re producing,” said Disney’s Ferraro. “It about taking real experiences, and hopefully, offering guests more reasons to vacation with us.”