Disney Marketer Carney Riding Into The Sunrise?

Memo To Aspiring Hollywood Marketers: Make sure you know the difference between marketing a movie and a hamburger. Don’t ride into town thinking the local yokels never heard of this here Internet thingy. And don’t wear white pants and white Chanel flats to a movie set (“War Horse”) awash in muck and manure.

In a story bearing the hed “In Hollywood’s Clubby Culture, a Disney Marketer’s Rapid Downfall,” the New York Times’ Brooks Barnes details the tribulations of Disney marketing chief MT Carney, an outsider who rode into town with highfallutin’ ideas and will evidently be beating a retreat to the Big Apple with a posse of tinsel town wags right behind her.

Carney, the Scottish-born wunderkind who was worldwide planning director at Ogilvy & Mather before becoming a founding partner of Naked Communications’ U.S. operation, will reportedly be replaced sometime this week. The Times story, which presents an evenhanded look at the rocky 18 months Carney has had at the helm, is icing on a cake that, by most accounts, has been in the oven for some time.



Acknowledging the widespread gossip in the Los Angeles Times’ “Company Town” blog, Ben Fritz writes: “But even on Sunday, it remained a cliffhanger, at least via official communication channels. One senior executive at Disney who is not authorized to speak publicly said Sunday night that there had been no internal announcement about Carney's fate.”

At Disney, Carney was in charge of worldwide marketing for all the company’s films, including those made by Pixar, DreamWorks and Marvel, The Hollywood Reporter’s Borys Kit and Matthew Belloni report. “Under her tenure, the studio has had such successes as The Help” and “The Muppets,” but it has also suffered such disappointments as “Sorcerer's Apprentice” (whose tagline, ‘It's the Coolest Job Ever,’ was roundly panned within the industry).”

A source who confirmed the rumors to the Hollywood Reporter says that Carney “has not been in her Burbank office at Disney in several weeks, and she has expressed a desire to return to New York, where her children are based.” They are cared for during the week by her former husband.

TheWrap’s Sharon Waxman reports that “TheWrap reported exclusively in late November that the studio had courted two senior marketing executives at rival studios.” But Sony’s chief of marketing Marc Weinstock and Josh Greenstein, a senior marketing executive at Paramount, reportedly turned the offer down.

Carney’s experience includes working with major marketers such as Coca-Cola, Johnson & Johnson and Nokia, Ad Age reports in a “Women To Watch” profile last year. She “made her mark at Naked by establishing the agency as a global strategy practice for major brands and corporations, providing clients with creative input and launch tactics that could take new products worldwide but without stepping on the creative or media agencies' toes,” writes Andrew Hampp.

“But a movie is not like a Honda,” one marketer tellsDeadline/Hollywood’s Nikke Finke, who goes on to ruminate: “You can argue that the knives were out from Day One by Hollywood’s incestuous marketing community that doesn’t want outsiders to succeed on their turf. You can argue that Carney did herself in with moronic pronouncements, an unwillingness to learn, and an eagerness to outsource. (Which is why she quickly earned the nickname ‘Empty Carney’.)”

One decision a source tells Finke that she did not outsource was the one to drop “Of Mars” from the title of the forthcoming “John Carter,” which is based on a cult sci-fi series by Edgar Rice Burroughs. (“Transplanted to Mars, a Civil War vet discovers a lush planet inhabited by 12-foot tall barbarians,” as the IMDB would have it.”)

“You are taking a piece of very well-known classic source material and taking the marketing hook out of it,” a source tells Finke. “It’s like putting it through the deflavorizer. It’s like a perfect microcosm of what went wrong.” (A WikiPedia article cites comic book site Bleeding Cool in squarely putting the decision to drop “Of Mars” from the title on director Andrew Stanton, however.)

Finke confirms that Carney expressed a desire to return to New York, where she flies to see her kids every weekend, as early as the summer but indicates that a search for her replacement began even before that.

Peter Sealey, a former Columbia Pictures marketing chief who co-wrote the book Not on My Watch: Hollywood vs. the Future, tells Barnes: “Film is the single most difficult industry for an outside marketer to crack…. It’s a clubby, inbred culture that still operates on instinct over research and an almost religious adherence to this-is-how-we-do-it tenets.”

Sounds a lot like my take upon exiting “Mission Impossible-Ghost Protocol” last night. Haven’t we seen this story before?

1 comment about "Disney Marketer Carney Riding Into The Sunrise?".
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  1. Stanford Crane from NewGuard Entertainment Corp, January 9, 2012 at 11:46 a.m.

    But at least MI-4 was exciting!

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