With most people stuck at home during the pandemic, family viewing on live and on-demand programming alike is through the roof. Disney hopes that many of them will find something to love—and pay for—in its bundle of streaming services.
In its first-ever television push, which will kick off tonight during Fox’s The Masked Singer, Disney will promote its streaming bundle, which includes Disney+, ESPN+ and Hulu’s ad-supported tier. The bundle, priced at $12.99 a month, was first announced months before Disney+’s November debut and has been marketed since then with banner ads on digital and social, but the campaign marks the first creative spot specifically designed to promote the breadth of offerings across all three streamers.
In the 30-second ad, images of Disney+ franchises like Star Wars and Pixar films like Moana appear right alongside Hulu’s The Handmaid’s Tale and adult animated fares like Futurama and ESPN+’s offering of sports clips and documentaries. Instead of cutting together clips from those programs, the different streamers are represented as color-coded train lines, zooming in and out to show off the different “cars” featuring programming options.
The message comes together at the end as all three lines swirl together into the bundle offering: Why buy a subscription to just one service when you can get all three?
The campaign is the first time that the company has promoted the bundle heavily for awareness and has been in the works since January when early creative work began. But the message to highlight the bundle has new resonance now that many Americans around the country remain home due to Covid-19.
The promotion also comes at a critical time for Disney, which has found that its streamers are some of its only businesses seeing growth as so many other segments of its business, like theme parks and cruises, are put on hold indefinitely as a result of the pandemic.
“These are tough times, and we really just want to be a source of comfort, and we want to be there for people,” said Andy Baker, Disney+’s vp of marketing, who worked closely on the campaign’s development. “For this, it’s a matter of saying, ‘Hey, here’s all of this great content that’s here for you,’ and we just want people to know that it’s there and it’s at their fingertips.”
The campaign will run through May and will live primarily on broadcast and cable television, with some shorter spots cut for digital and social. There will also be more traditional ads that cut and paste clips from various programs together to highlight the different programming in a more traditional manner.
The idea with the spot debuting tonight, Baker said, was to find a way to highlight an even broader sampling of the offer and use a less traditional method to do it. With help from the agency Roger, the streamers iterated on the transit themes reflected throughout the ad. Ultimately, Disney+ was reflected with a Disney blue color, Hulu got its iconic green hue and ESPN+ was demarcated with gold.
“We were building out an identity system for how to represent these three different brands, and we were working with these colors to demonstrate, conceptually, these three brands,” Baker said. “As we explored that, it felt almost like a transit system, so we grew from there.”
The marketing push for the bundle comes as Disney+, Hulu and ESPN+ are all charting high subscriber growth, with Disney+ reaching 54.5 million subscribers in May. Hulu had 32.1 million paid subscribers at the end of March, Disney recently reported, while ESPN+ had 7.9 million paid subscribers.
Marketing for the bundle is intended to serve as a complementary addition to programming and platform-specific messaging that Disney+, Hulu and ESPN+ are all independently pursuing and are consequently required regular input from all of the studios and streamers represented in the spot. Each streamer’s creative team shared what they thought was their most iconic and popular programming to highlight before the spot was woven together, with some getting front-row placement and other iconic series and movies appearing onscreen in the background.
“It was a herculean effort,” Baker said of pulling together the spot. “This couldn’t have happened without a huge amount of teamwork from all of those teams, and everyone all shedding their own personal aims and really thinking big-picture.”
The campaign will serve as a learning experience for Disney’s streaming executives, who are still thinking about the right cadence of marketing the bundle as opposed to the individual streaming services.
While the round of promotional materials for the bundle will not include upcoming Disney+ programming like Hamilton or Artemis Fowl, two upcoming programs that will land on the streamer this summer, it does reflect some new additions to Disney+, including the recent Pixar film Onward, which moved quickly to transactional video-on-demand platforms and to Disney+ after its theatrical release was cut short.