Disney knows more about its fans then ever before but also knows it can’t fully exploit those moments without help, which is where data owners like Facebook and Public Health England come in.

“Whenever we get data we give it the ‘so what?’ question,” said Disney’s chief marketing officer for the UK and Ireland Anna Hill. Two words the house of mouse’s marketers are now more reliant on than at any other point in the company’s 92-year history given the vast amounts of data flowing into the business.

“We’re looking at it [data] from all angles,” Hill told a source, spanning everything from a monthly panel of 150,000 mums to its Magicband wearable device. “We need to invest in understanding who our audiences are more,” she continued, in the belief that the data (in all its guises) can unlock new sales opportunities – whether its finding out that Japanese adults have a higher affinity for the brand than anywhere else in the world or sharper ad targeting.

But sifting for those nuggets of insight is a challenge and while it’s capable, Disney wants help in specific areas. One such area was mums; the media business partnered Winnie the Pooh with Facebook to better understand mothers, using insights around their need states and key occasions to find out how best to target them with helpful content whether it’s when they’ve just had a baby or helping them plan their older child’s birthday parties. Plans are also underway to use both Disney and Facebook data sets to serve parents with ideas for activities they can do with their kids, including places they can have parties, product suggestions and healthy living tips.

A similar push is planned through Google, which will also use the Winnie the Pooh brand as the business looks to test emerging ad techniques such as sequential targeting and dynamic creative.

“It’s not always about doing it on our own. We’re working with partners to understand what children are doing and how we can motivate them to do more,” said Hill.

Healthy living messaging has been part of Disney’s marketing for several years and is set to take on a bigger role, particularly in the UK through its tie-up with Public Health England – the agency set up by the government to promote health and wellbeing. The public body is sitting on reams of data that Disney is exploring to understand what it needs to do get kids more active using brands like Star Wars and Frozen.

“We want to understand how we can use our characters for good,” said Hill at IAB Engage this week (15 October). We believe that Disney can play a part here because our characters are so influential in kids lives that if Elsa can inspire them to eat a banana or be more active then that’s a positive thing,” she added.

It’s emblematic of Disney’s resolute focus on preserving its purpose in the eyes of consumers, which Hill said was down to an understanding that success “isn’t just about return on investment”. Being commercially successful is important, but she said it was a product of having strong brand equity.

“A lot of our initiatives that are insight driven are about trying to continue to push our brand to be innovative, exciting and fun,” she continued.

Disney wants to have more fun with characters like Mickey and Minnie Mouse and has been using data to help identity like-minded businesses to partner with in order to bring that to life. It’s using a Brand Desire study, devised by one of its agencies, to identify opportunities to be mined from coming together with other businesses like Jimmy Choo for its Cinderella film this summer or Vodafone on Frozen last year.

It might seem that the company is an open shop when it comes to partnerships however that couldn’t be farther from the truth. “We want to do fewer, bigger partnerships,” confirmed Hill, although when it comes to tie-ups with online platforms her view is somewhat more relaxed.

“We’re interest in them all; Pinterest is fascinating and really relevant, particularly for a parent space. Facebook is an incredibly powerful tool,” added Hill.

“We’re watching all of those spaces and we’re working alongside those guys. There’s nothing that we don’t focus in those spaces. Everything is just done with great carefulness. We have a lot of rigour in the organisations. We have content calendars. We have meetings where we sit and review what we want to go out. We just do things very carefully.”

And as Disney’s digital presence grows, that cautious attitude will be called on to navigate the data privacy and brand safety issues that are currently dominating industry discussions and the marketing press. For now, Hill’s marketers and agencies are “just very careful” when it comes to media planning. “Sometimes programmatic can be challenging for this and so we just have to take those extra precautions to make sure that we only land in those relevant spaces and exactly the same way when people use our media platforms to advertise their brands – we don’t have any unhealthy treats and sweets advertising on our platforms.”

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