|Andy Bird, chairman of Walt Disney International, speaks at the opening session of the Fourth Abu Dhabi Media Summit (ADMS) in Abu Dhabi, capital of United Arab Emirates (UAE), Oct. 22, 2013. The ADMS kicked off on Tuesday. (Xinhua/An Jiang)|
Andy Bird, Chairman of Walt Disney International, talked on the opening day of the Abu Dhabi Media Summit today (22 October) about the art of emerging market expansion, storytelling in a global marketplace, as well as discussing the disruption of linear viewing habits in favour of digital “snacking”.
In a wide-ranging interview with Matthew Garrahan, Los Angeles correspondent at the Financial Times, Bird discussed how consumers have begun to enjoy bite-size pieces of content at all times, wherever they are:
“Consumers used to sit and consume content by watching television or going to the movies. Now you can be at the bus stop, at the supermarket, and you can snack on media. We’ve been experimenting with what that means, especially in terms of duration”.
On the year of its 90th birthday, Bird also focused on the Walt Disney Company’s shift away from exporting American content to global markets to become locally driven. This is to ensure that dynamic content is relevant to consumers, reinforcing and leveraging brand identity at a localized level. In doing so, he said, the company had “stuck to its principles: great storytelling, innovation, creativity and use of technology”.
In particular, he spoke about the growing importance of China – the second biggest theatrical market outside the United States – and building strong, relevant localized content.
“Previously we were largely an export company of film and television – our content would be dubbed into the local language. Whether in China, India, or UAE, it was representative of the United States Walt Disney Company. We’ve been striving to move from that position – how do we become the Chinese Walt Disney Company? What does that take? Relevancy is the key word – the world has accelerated at such a fast pace and brands have to remain culturally relevant in front of consumers”.
In China, Bird said, the Disney English initiative – which has 44 learning institutions throughout China, reaching 35,000 children – epitomized this localized approach, where the company made the strategic decision to empower local management and give them authority and autonomy, while using its imagineers to be creative with proprietary content and interactive technology.
“This is not learning English with Mickey Mouse. Disney provides a service of English language teaching with physical learning institutions which really involves the value system of the Disney brand, learning English to the quality you’d expect of Disney, with innovation, with a level of customer service you’d expect.”
Bird went on to discuss the impact of the company in India, specifically the purchase of UTV reflecting the desire to tap into three cultural pillars of Indian society – movies, TV and cricket. The company now produces more movies out of India than Hollywood.
For Disney, he said, it was vital to become immersed in a movie space where 94% of the box office was Indian, while only 6% was Hollywood – “in ten years’ time I want a family to say I want to go and see a Disney movie”.