Disney names Participant Media's Ricky Strauss to lead marketing
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 oversees both production and marketing. Years ago he was a marketing executive at Columbia Pictures.
The surprising choice indicates that Disney's movie chairman, Rich Ross, is looking for an experienced Hollywood hand after his last pick, MT Carney, lasted only 19 months on the job largely because she had no experience in movie marketing.
Prior to Participant, Strauss worked as a producer and a production executive at Sony. His last time working in a pure marketing job came during a nine-year stint in the advertising department of Columbia Pictures, which was acquired by Sony in 1989. According to Strauss' LinkedIn profile, that was his first job after graduating from the University of Vermont.
Ross selected Carney in hopes of shaking up Disney's marketing department and shifting its focus toward new digital platforms like Facebook and Twitter. But the former Madison Avenue executive never found her footing in Hollywood and saw a number of flops under her short watch, including "Mars Needs Moms" and "Prom."
At the same time, more experienced executives who worked under Carney or consultants ended up overseeing the marketing of numerous other films that fared better, such as "Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides" and "The Help."
Strauss will face immediate challenges at Disney, with the risky big-budget tent pole "John Carter" hitting theaters in March and Disney's first release of a Marvel movie, "The Avengers," in May.
Ross kept an extremely tight hold on his selection of Strauss this week even as negotiations were ongoing for him to leave Participant. Even senior executives at Disney and top filmmakers who work at the studio were not informed until this morning.
The news of Strauss was first reported by Deadline.
— Ben Fritz
Photo: Ricky Strauss, left, with Participant Chairman Jeff Skoll. Credit: Marjorie Salvaterra.