Advanced Advertising: 'Last Dance' Shows Disney's Agility

ESPN’s The Last Dance documentary series, which drew more than 6 million viewers on average to the first two episodes, and a clever Kenny Mayne ad for State Farm Insurance that aired in it gave Walt Disney Co. executives and former NBA star Jalen Rose plenty to talk about during day three of the Advanced Advertising Virtual Summit.

The ad, a mix of past and present Mayne, for State Farm, which was an advertiser on ESPN in the 1990s, seemed to presage that years hence there would be a docuseries about the '90s Chicago Bulls. Lisa Valentino, executive VP of client and brand solutions for Disney Advertising Sales, explained that the ad came together in a hurry, given that The Last Dance was scheduled to air in June but was moved up in the absence of live sports programming on ESPN during the COVID-19 crisis.

“I think we’re all learning in this moment how agile we can be as creators,” Valentino said. What would normally be an eight-week process to create a special ad has become “a 48-hour window,” she told summit producer Jon Lafayette, business editor at Broadcasting+Cable.

Rose, co-host of the Jalen and Jacoby Aftershow following Last Dance episodes, said sports inspires conversations that advertisers can benefit from. Last Dance, for example, has brought on debates about whether LeBron James is better than Michael Jordan. (“That’s blasphemy,” the engaging Rose said.) “It continues to further it, and the sponsors can continue to not only follow that momentum but also really take advantage of the power that sports still will have, even though live sports are not happening right now,” Rose said.

Valentino and Rose were joined by Terry Hurlbutt, VP and executive editor of ABC News Digital, who said “interest in good news stories is astronomical right now” and that people are looking to help local businesses.

A second panel during the Advanced Advertising Virtual Summit focused on automation. Evan Adlman, senior VP of advanced advertising and digital partnerships at AMC Networks, said when he moved from digital to TV he was surprised at how little of TV advertising was done in automated fashion. He sees that changing, though. “I think it’s going to pick up and move faster to adapt those technologies and those new efficiencies and ways of working than it did in digital.”

More Summit Coverage: COVID Crisis Challenges, Opportunities; Experts See Growth of Targeting, AVOD; Strategies For Smart Spending After Crisis

Programmatic vendors joining him on the panel -- Preetham Mallikarjuna, chief product officer at Simulmedia, and Jeremy Steinberg, global head of ecosystem at MediaMath -- talked up their firms’ approaches and the benefits of advanced advertising. “We obviously see massive opportunity with addressable advertising television, given the value and benefit of the content on these large screens,” Steinberg said.

The Advanced Advertising Virtual Summit concludes tomorrow (Thursday).

Kent Gibbons

Kent has been a journalist, writer and editor at Multichannel News since 1994 and with Broadcasting+Cable since 2010. He is a good point of contact for anything editorial at the publications and for Before joining Multichannel News he had been a newspaper reporter with publications including The Washington Times, The Poughkeepsie (N.Y.) Journal and North County News.