Is Disney Trying to Keep Parents Out of the Loop?

Last week I sat through three different sessions at the Ypulse National Mashup (a great event) where I heard from three different representatives from Disney: one from Disney Interactive, one from Disney Mobile and one from Disney Music. The Disney Music presentation was near the end of the conference and I left his talk feeling incredibly provoked.

What I found interesting about all three presenters is that they didn’t mention parents. Actually, Stephen Saiz, manager of consumer insight and strategy of the Walt Disney Internet Group’s North American mobile division did mention parents but it was in a less than flattering way. This CNET article quotes Saiz as saying, “Teens are pushing their parents to go on mobile because they don’t really want to communicate with them directly.” I am not sure about the conclusion he’s drawing from his research but I am sure it was the only time I heard the Disney folks talk about parents.

Disney Music: Tweens are Cogs in the Machine
Damon Whiteside, senior vice president of marketing of Walt Disney Records, shared slides with us describing their musical success (read more about his talk here). High School Musical, Miley Cyrus aka Hannah Montana and the Jonas Brothers have all added to the Disney coffers as tweens and teens have spent boatloads of money on music, merchandise and more. The bulk of the purchases are made by tweens and young teens and that’s when I noticed he wasn’t mentioning parents.

When he put up a slide that literally had gears representing the machine used to get these kids to buy their stuff, I felt my hackles rise.

It seems they have this all figured out – how they are going to build and ship the next batch of new artists that will snatch the dollars out of your wallet. From Demi Lovato, featured in Camp Rock and now being teased incessantly on the Disney Channel, to KSM, an all-girl rock band that was “casted” by Disney to have maximum appeal, it’s all coming your way. Wow, I remember the old days when bands were created organically by the artists who were compelled to make music.

I Say: Talk to the Tween
If tweens are your market, it seems to me you need a parent strategy of some sort. I have been very involved with my tween’s music choices and yes, we do have every album Miley Cyrus has made (including the new one coming out tomorrow – currently in transit to us via preorder). But we don’t buy them blindly and the purchase is balanced off against other things my kid “wants.”

When I got home, I talked to my daughter about what I heard and asked her about why she likes Miley so much. Turns out she really likes her character on television and likes what’s she’s heard in interviews. My daughter believes Miley is like her especially because she’s so close to her real dad; she said the relationship between Miley and her dad is like the relationship between the two of us. And, she explained, I really like her dad (Billy Ray Cyrus) so Miley must be a good person. Hmmm, look at that, parents matter.

So Disney, I know you are a giant and you see us all as part of the machine, but there’s more at play here than just bombarding us on every media channel you own. I believe you need parents on your side and it would be nice to see you acknowledge our role in our children’s lives.

Even at a marketing conference.

PS: I asked my kid about Demi Lovato and it turns out she thinks she sucks. Who knew? She said Camp Rock was a pretty lame movie and the screaming singer (Demi) was just plain bad. What a relief, my daughter has independent thought.


Cyber Gramma: Why I Still Need My Mom in a High Tech World

It’s Mother’s Day and my kid has been sick all weekend so I really didn’t get a chance to pull anything together for my mom. Somehow she snuck a bear claw into the house yesterday so my daughter, coughing and gasping, still managed to surprise me with breakfast in bed (said bear claw and a diet Pepsi – I don’t need much!). What a nice surprise.

I tend to have a push/pull relationship with my mom – like most mom’s, she can drive me to the brink, but despite all that, she can also really come through when I least expect it. And she is truly helpful in my “high tech” life. So here’s to you mom, a little ode to how you help me every day.


M is for medical advice. This is incredibly relevant right now with my daughter sitting in the other room sporting a fever. I could Google until the cows come home but nothing can substitute for having mom around to tell me the best way to treat a sick child.

O is for old school. With so many cyber toys around our house, it seems my daughter likes nothing better than playing some “old school” games with gramma including a game called Hüsker Dü – a memory game from Denmark. Having gramma around for these moments are the things memories are made of.

T is for talking. As in, I do the talking and she does the listening. I work from home and while my colleagues are terrific, they aren’t sitting in the cube next to me. So when I get a brain fart (which can be often), it’s usually my mom who has to smelt what I dealt. Over the years, she has had to listen to me tell her the most boring stories and now she even has to read emails and follow web links. I am so glad she does.

H is for hearing. This one is really important to me because I am often faced with ethical situations that can be really confusing. She doesn’t just listen to me talk about them but she hears what’s really going on and offers me advice on doing the right thing. And let’s face it, we all have difficult decisions to make but having mom on your side to help you through the tough times can really make the decisions easier.

E is for endurance. I don’t know how she does it, she’s not getting any younger, but she manages to keep up with Katie and I as we drag her across America, around the town and through any number of kid events – from grade school open houses to camp performances. Despite the fact she raised three of her own, she never fails to be enthusiastic at all my daughter’s childhood events including fawning over artwork, strange homemade food and encounters with various living creatures my daughter finds fascinating.

R is for rock on. My mom’s been through some pretty crazy Hannah Montana dance parties. Despite Disney trying to possess my daughter’s mind, I can always count on my mom to crank up The Who or The Kinks and get my daughter rockin to classic rock and roll. There’s nothing better than watching my mom shake it while she refuses to get old.

So here’s to you mom, I couldn’t do it without you.

Happy Mother’s Day – and to all you rocking grannies in a cyber world – we love you!