Walt Disney Studios has picked Hollywood veteran Ricky Strauss as its new president of worldwide marketing to replace outsider MT Carney, the Burbank studio announced.
For the last seven years Strauss has been president of Participant Media, a film finance and production company that focuses on socially responsible pictures. In that job he oversaw production and marketing, on such films as "The Help," "Contagion" and the documentary "An Inconvenient Truth." Before that he was a marketing executive at Sony Pictures.
The choice marks an about-face for Walt Disney Studios Chairman Rich Ross, who in early 2010 sought to shake up Disney's marketing operation with the selection of Carney, who previously worked in brand management on Madison Avenue but had no film industry experience. Although she shifted Disney's attention toward new digital platforms, including launching the first movie marketing campaign on Twitter, she never resolved doubts about her lack of movie experience. The studio also saw several flops under her short watch, including "Mars Needs Moms" and "Prom," while bringing in consultants to oversee the marketing for higher-profile projects such as "Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides."
The decision to replace Carney continues a period of instability at the top of Disney. Nearly all of its experienced senior executives have left the company since Ross was hired in 2009 to replace longtime Chairman Dick Cook.
Producer Jerry Bruckheimer, one of the most prolific movie makers in the Disney family, said Ross informed him of the new marketing president Friday morning shortly before sending a memo to employees.
"There's nothing like someone with experience, and [Strauss] is apparently a very smart man," Bruckheimer said.
Strauss worked with Ross in August on the successful release of "The Help," co-financed by Participant with DreamWorks Studios and released by Disney.
Prior to Participant, Strauss worked as a producer and a production executive at Sony, after a nine-year stint in that studio's advertising department.
He'll face immediate challenges at Disney, with the risky big-budget "John Carter" hitting theaters in March and the studio's first release of a Marvel movie, "The Avengers," in May.
In an email to employees, Ross wrote, "Ricky is an insightful and savvy brand builder whose expertise extends across all aspects of the film business. He is well-versed in traditional marketing models, has a proven ability to leverage new media, and puts an emphasis on storytelling — a combination which makes him an incredible addition to our organization."