Disney pushes towards greater diversity in advertising

NEW YORK (WABC) -- The national conversation on race and the push towards greater diversity on television has meant much discussion on Madison Avenue about the best way for advertisers to reflect our times. This is the story about a new partnership designed to seize this moment.

The idea is to make sure TV advertising connects better with diverse audiences and better reflects society as it is right now. A veteran record mogul, Steve Stoute, was recruited for this effort. He nurtured Nas and managed Mary J. Blige, came of age in Queens during a time when Run-D.M.C. urged everyone to "Walk This Way." When Hip Hop came of age, Stoute was there, "and being around that energy taught me one thing," he said, "not to rap, not to D.J., but to be resourceful."

Later, he moved into marketing by guiding the likes of Lady Gaga and Jay-Z. "I've always remained culturally curious," he told me via Zoom, "I've always remained somebody who's gonna be persistent to get what I need, and I will tell you that's the Queen's way!"

Stoute's association with Disney dates back to "The Princess And The Frog" more than a decade ago. Now, his company called, Translation, is teaming top with Disney Advertising Sales President Rita Fero to promote diversity across all of the platforms owned by the company. She explained that Stoute and his colleagues, "have the data, the research, the insights to understand how to speak to culture, how to speak to black and brown audiences."

These audiences have not always been well-served by Madison Avenue. "I'm Cuban-American," Fero continued, "Steve is African American, and we have a passion. This is personal for us."

The idea is to meet this moment like one campaign did this summer. It promoted a documentary about Michael Jordan called, "The Last Dance." Stoute told me, "when something is culturally connecting, it's hard to say what it was that connected, but when people see it they feel it. It makes a difference."

An earlier ad for State Farm Insurance talked about a "Neighborhood of Good." Another spot for the same client introduced us to those who are "Born to Assist." This is only the beginning for Disney Advertising Sale and Translation. "Tomorrow is diverse," noted Stoute, "and that's what this relationship is all about is unlocking the power, the commercial power of diversity."

Both Steve Stoute and Rita Fero believe diversity is morally right and the best way to build a great media business. Disney is the parent company of ABC 7.

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