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Brand Safety Top of Disney's Mind at NewFronts

Disney’s new digital brand came with a brand-safe message. On Tuesday, the media and entertainment powerhouse held a digital NewFronts show to reveal the new Disney Digital Network, spawned from its Maker creators acquisition.

Disney bought Maker two years ago, to get into the digital video landscape with thousands of YouTube stars. This year, Disney paired down the Maker network to 300 core Web stars and dealt with a problem of brand safety. PewDiePie, Felix Kjellberg, is YouTube’s biggest star and was dropped from Maker for offensive videos. In fact, all of YouTube became a no-go zone for many advertisers afraid of other creators, and the industry is going for brand safety.

Josh Mattison, VP-alliances and partnerships at Disney Digital Network, spoke after the NewFronts to discuss the new entity and advertisers.

You really tightened the lineup of online celebrities to a core group of 300. Why did you have to make that change?

We focused on a much more curated list of creators that basically align with the brand values of the Disney Company. Quantity isn’t the name of the game, it’s quality. We wanted people we could connect with the world of “Star Wars,” Marvel,” and Disney.

And now you’re one group with Maker, and changed the name. How does that help with advertisers?

We trade as the Disney Digital Network, which is one of the most trusted and admired brands with consumers. So we extend the same thing from an advertising perspective that there is no more trusted brand.

How big is the brand safety conversation around these NewFronts?

It’s always more on us than our partners if we get something wrong. So we hope that partners find a lot of comforts in that safety, and we do operate on YouTube, but on channels that we operate, whether Disney-owned or through the Maker creator network, we can see 100% of the content. So anything we do there can pass through a “Disney” values lens.

With some bad content on YouTube and elsewhere, have you had to develop any new technology that helps uncover trouble spots for advertisers?

It’s not about the technology. We see 30 channels that are Disney-owned, where we program 100% of the content. On the creator network, we see all the content thereby keeping it as curated as it is. We just have humans look at it and anytime we’re running branded content in there or running advertising in there, it’s only in places that we see. There isn’t a .001% risk that an ad is going to run in the wrong place.

How about the content. What did you have coming?

We announced the launch of “Science and Star Wars,” and it runs 100% on Facebook. IBM is the advertising partner, and we can feature an IBM researcher who can look at the world of “Star Wars” from a science viewpoint. Also, we have “Club Mickey,” which is a reboot of “The Mickey Mouse Club.” It will run only on Facebook and Instagram, and the case for that will come from our creator network.

You also named two advertisers, HP and IBM. Don’t they seem a bit old for Disney?

What you didn’t see from us is a conversation about kids. It goes without saying we reach kids. But the core audience we are serving here are Gen Z and millennials—teens, twentysomethings and young 30s. It’s 2017, these are the people in their adult lives starting families, so we see huge affinity there.

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