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Entertainment

Disney shifts $800-million-a-year movie ad buying to OMD

MoviesRupert MurdochTheme Park VacationsAmusement and Theme Parks

Walt Disney Co. has hired a new advertising agency to oversee media planning for its movie studio.

OMD, whose clients include Pepsi and Visa, on Wednesday landed the Disney Studios account, which handles an estimated $800 million a year in advertising spending, according to sources familiar with the matter.

It is a major coup for OMD, which has a large Los Angeles office that handles its Nissan and Wells Fargo accounts.

Publicis Groupe's 4D agency lost the Disney account.

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Disney did not widely solicit offers and presentations from different agencies as most companies do when considering a shift in strategy. Instead, the search was done under the radar. A Disney representative declined to comment on the move.

The Burbank studio has been running hot and cold at the box office this year.

Its most recent release, "Thor: The Dark World," is a big hit, grossing more than $145 million in domestic ticket sales since its Nov. 8 debut. Another Marvel Entertainment film, "Iron Man 3," has grossed more than $400 million domestically.

But last summer, Disney shot itself in the foot with the big-budget flop "The Lone Ranger," starring Johnny Depp and produced by Jerry Bruckheimer. The film, which cost an estimated $225 million to produce and tens of millions more to promote, resulted in a loss of at least $150 million.

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It's been two-and-a-half years since Disney shopped around its movie ad buying account. 

The Burbank studio solicited offers in 2011 after a high-profile shake-up at the studio, and brought in a brand strategist, MT Carney, a hire that raised eyebrows given that she had no experience marketing films.

Carney touted her social media skills and even tweeted details of her job interview process. She oversaw the account review that led to the hiring of the firm 4D and the dismissal of the company's longtime ad agency, Starcom of Chicago. 

But Carney quickly fizzled at Disney and left in early 2012. She was replaced by Ricky Strauss, who remains the studio's marketing president.

Ad Week first reported the shift in Disney ad buying.

Another buying firm, Carat, will retain Disney's account to handle ad buying for theme parks, a job that is responsible for an estimated $200 million a year in spending.

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