Notes from Disney and Havas #ftmedia12

Adam Tinworth
Adam Tinworth

Andy Bird, chairman, Walt Disney International

[![]( 8 Mar 2012 10:54.jpg)]( 8 Mar 2012 10:54.jpg)
*Interviewed by Richard Waters, West Coast Managing Editor, Financial Times*

People here are very fond of quoting “leading brand” studies, and comparing that with digital companies – I wonder if they realise how very defensive that sounds? Andy Bird, the chairman of Walt Disney International just did it, as well as dazzling us with figures like the 2,000 imagineers worldwide they have.

They have a “great relationship” with Apple, but are platform agnostic as a company. Where they tend to hold back is where they are uncertain if consumers will get the best experience.

He’s being very careful about talking about Keychest, their video on demand product at all, that sounds like a digital locker with some similarities with the Ultraviolet idea. He won’t comment either way about joining that.

More open about their ventures into gaming. Disney Interactive is a small and loss-making business, pointed out Waters. They over-invested in the console business, and a change of management has changed things, especially with a focus on games apps.

“We want to be everywhere our consumer are consuming – or have the ability to consume – our content.”

He gave some interesting thoughts about emerging markets and the dominance of mobile and tablets in that space, and that they may move straight to those consumption modes without moving through many that we’re familiar with.

They’re also making use of social – 300m Facebook fans of Disney. Dory from Finding Nemo has 17m on her own – and when they release Finding Nemo in 3D that’s an interesting marketing base.

They’re also working with – rather than against – indpendent creators making work based on Disney properties, like DJ Pogo.

This was a curious, curious session. Disney and its range of products make it an interesting company, but Bird was a very cagey speaker. He seemed happier slipping towards app demos and standard lines about platform agnosticism, then he was discussing startegy in any depth. When people on Twitter were getting excited about the 50-year old concept of Imagineers, you know that not much new was coming from the talk.

David Jones, Chief Executive Officer, Havas

Interviewed by Tim Bradshaw, Digital Media Correspondent, Financial Times

[![David Jones at the Financial Times Digital Media Summit]( 8 Mar 2012 11:53.jpg)]( 8 Mar 2012 11:53.jpg)
“We’re heading to the age of damage. Social media is going to make companies more responsible.” That was his opening premise, that corporate social responsibility is being moved to the profit and loss statement by social media. Dominos Pizza had the worst possible experience with employees videoing horrible things happening behind nthe scenes at restuarants – and ended up on every TV news. They learnt from that and started a radical transparancy campaign. Every single week someone comes unstuck through social media.

Apple is the biggest example given of a company that is non-transparent. But even it published its supply chains a few weeks ago. Jones thinks that in over 90% of cases, when social media voices have a problem with a company, they’re right.

He’s on the Facebook Client Council, which sounds like an interesting operation. He suggests that very few people ever miss a meeting, possibly because everyone’s fascinated by what the company is doing and what it might do next…

This is very much a standard, base level social reputation mangement talk – I think it tells you a lot about the main audience here that this sort of talk is necessary. “Transparency, authenticity and speed” and “honesty not perfection” are baseline assumptions behind much of this stuff.

He thinks that this century might be about big business having their traditional great execution – but finally some good intentions, policed, essentially, by social media. “It will become harder and harder to succeed if you don’t behave in the right way.” The biggest challenge is the financial markets. If some of the socially responsible companies don’t outperform the market, we might see some pushback from the city, arguing that it should all be about short-term profit.

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Adam is a lecturer, trainer and writer. He's been a blogger for over 20 years, and a journalist for more than 30. He lectures on audience strategy and engagement at City, University of London.