Respected advertising executive Rita Ferro has been named to lead The Walt Disney Company’s advertising sales efforts, announced Kevin Mayer, chairman, Direct-to-Consumer and International (DTCI), The Walt Disney Company, to whom she reports.
In addition to leading advertising sales for the Company’s entertainment, news and kids linear and digital TV and Radio businesses (including ABC Entertainment, ABC Daytime, ABC News, Disney Channel, Disney XD, Disney Junior, Radio Disney and Freeform), Ferro will now also oversee ad sales for the ESPN portfolio which includes ESPN’s domestic networks, ESPN on ABC, ESPN.com, ESPN3, ESPN The Magazine, ESPN Radio, ESPN International, ESPN+ and ESPN Mobile. She will continue to lead the integrated sales team for the Company’s online, mobile and social offerings, including the Disney Digital Network. Additionally, Ferro will have responsibility for National TV Ad Sales for ABC’s eight owned local TV stations.
For 20 years, ESPN’s advertising sales efforts have been led by Ed Erhardt, who has announced he will retire in early 2019.
Earlier this year, management of global advertising sales for Disney’s media properties–including ESPN, ABC, Freeform and the Disney Channels–moved from Disney’s Media Networks to the new Direct-to-Consumer and International segment in order to provide advertisers a one-stop-shop for reaching audiences across all of Disney’s media properties, including its online and direct-to-consumer platforms.
“Uniting our advertising sales efforts gives advertisers and marketers a one-stop shop for reaching audiences across all of The Walt Disney Company’s media properties, providing clients with the best and most effective tools and marketing solutions possible,” said Mayer. “Throughout her career, Rita has consistently grown businesses through a focus on brand building and innovation. She has played a crucial role in defining new growth strategies and has been a valued partner to me as we chart a course for our businesses. Rita’s steadfast focus on the needs of both clients and consumers, her track record of successful innovation and delivery of business results make her an ideal candidate to lead our companywide sales efforts.”
Mayer added, “We celebrate Ed’s years of service and contributions to ESPN. In the few months that we’ve worked closely together, he has defined what it means to lead with integrity. This decision is something he has been planning for some time and it is very much appreciated that he agreed to stay on through the ramp-up phase of DTCI. We all wish Ed the best in his retirement and thank him for his dedication to the Company and our clients.”
“I’m humbled to step into this new expanded role, and look forward to building upon the progress the teams under Ed and I have made since becoming a part of Disney’s Direct-to Consumer & International segment earlier this year,” said Ferro. “More than ever before, it is critical that we continue to evolve, rethink and anticipate how we work together across all of our platforms to best meet the changing needs of our clients and consumers.”
Said Jimmy Pitaro, President, ESPN, “Ed Erhardt leaves a legacy of innovation and leadership – both at ESPN and across the industry. I’ve sat across the table from Ed both as a competitor and as a colleague. He’s a versatile leader with a knack for closing deals that work for everyone around the table. I admired him before I arrived at ESPN and I have leaned on his expertise since I’ve joined the organization. We will miss him but I am grateful he’ll be staying on as we transition into the new organization.”
Added Erhardt, “It has been an honor to be a part of the ESPN and Disney organization. I have been blessed to sell and market the power of sports and the ESPN brand with best team in the business over the past 20 years. I want to thank George Bodenheimer for giving me this opportunity in 1999 and thank our customers for their partnership, confidence, investments and friendship. I am incredibly proud of the ESPN team’s accomplishments. And I am confident in the direction we’re headed under Jimmy Pitaro’s leadership at ESPN and with Rita at the helm of the overarching ad sales business. She and I have a long, shared history and I’ve seen her leadership first hand. Her integrity and passion for the business will ensure our continued success in the ad sales arena.”
Named president, Disney|ABC Advertising Sales and Marketing in 2017, Ferro previously oversaw all advertising sales, marketing functions and ad revenue-generation strategies for the company’s entertainment, news and kids and family linear and digital TV and radio businesses, including ABC Entertainment, ABC Daytime, ABC News, Disney Channel, Disney XD, Disney Junior, Radio Disney and Freeform. She also leads the integrated sales team for the Disney Digital Network (DDN), The Walt Disney Company’s online, mobile and social offerings.
Named executive vice president, Disney Media Sales and Marketing for Disney Channels Worldwide in June 2010, Ferro led integrated sales team that represents and maximizes advertising sales, marketing and promotions across The Walt Disney Company’s media platforms serving kids, moms and families, including its kid-driven, family-inclusive TV channels, its wide-range of online, mobile and social offerings, its kid- and mom-focused radio platform and its Multi-Cultural group. Those platforms included Disney Channel, Disney XD, Disney Junior, Radio Disney and several Disney Online, Mobile and Social properties serving kids, families and/or women.
Prior to this, Ferro worked with Disney Latin America, most recently as Vice President, Advertising Sales, Disneymedia+. Ferro began her career with The Walt Disney Company more than 21 years ago with ESPN International, where she held several posts including vice president, International Ad Sales leading the ESPN International Ad Sales offices in Miami, Argentina, Mexico and Brazil.
Among her many industry honors, Ferro was named to Variety’s 2018 Power of Women New York Impact list, honoring women across all aspects of the entertainment industry who are making an impact; in 2017, she recognized to The Hollywood Reporter’s Women in Entertainment Power 100, in addition to being featured on Advertising Age’s Women to Watch power list, which celebrates the most powerful women in advertising. In 2015, Ferro was selected as part of Multichannel News’ Wonder Women — “Women to Watch,” and for six consecutive years (2012-17), Ferro has been named one of the Most Powerful and Influential Latinos by the Imagen Foundation.
Most recently, The Mayor of New York City, Bill de Blasio and the Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment (MOME) Commissioner, Julie Menin appointed Ferro to the Latin Media and Entertainment Commission (LMEC) in efforts to cultivate the next generation of New York City-based Latinx media and entertainment professionals; promote enhanced Spanish language content on mainstream and emerging media platforms; attract and retain major Latinx media events in New York City; and expand the audience for premier Latinx cultural content in New York City.
Ferro earned a Bachelor of Science in advertising and a master’s degree in International Business from Florida International University.
Ed Erhardt is an industry leader who has overseen advertising sales at ESPN since 1999. In 2015 he added oversight of ESPN’s Marketing and Research groups. When he joined ESPN, he broke new ground in the media and advertising sales industry by combining the ABC Sports and ESPN sales groups, creating the first unified sales organization that represented The Walt Disney Company sports assets across all media platforms. Organized by team and focused on customer needs and media agnostic, it has been widely hailed by competitors and customers as the prototype for how sales teams should be constructed in an evolving media universe.
In his tenure at ESPN, he has been credited with many landmark and innovative strategies:
- He’s been a pioneer in media measurement, most recently pushing the industry to adopt single-source, cross-platform measurement and leading the charge on the importance of Out of Home.
- He was a key architect of the successful College Football Playoff sales and marketing strategy, introduced in 2014.
- In 2010 he established one of the first in-house, branded-content creative agencies, CreativeWorks, which works with hundreds of clients to develop bespoke creative designed for an ESPN audience.
- He’s been a leader in ad innovation, including the introduction of the double-box ad treatment first used in 2005 for the IndyCar Series; expanding ESPN’s BottomLineto run through ad breaks; and creating the single-advertiser SportsCenter He also forged one of the most coveted sponsorship franchises in the sports marketplace: College GameDay Built by The Home Depot.
- Erhardt also broke new ground in the Upfront marketplace, creating the first sports Upfront. In 2007, he scheduled ESPN’s Upfront during the traditional Broadcast Upfront week, making ESPN the first cable network to do so, and opening a door through which many other cable networks followed.
Erhardt is a sought after speaker and panelist on the subject of cross-media marketing and sales. A well respected leader in the sports advertising industry, Erhardt and his organization have been routinely recognized by for innovative and integrated marketing success stories. He has been honored by many industry organizations, including receiving the Distinguished Citizenship Award from the John A. Reisenbach Foundation. And was inducted into the American Advertising Federation Hall of Achievement for ad professionals under 40 in 1995.
Prior to ESPN Erhardt was the Vice President/Group Publisher of Advertising Age, the industry bible. He served in a variety of roles and launched AdAge.com in 1994. With a long career in media, previous positions included vice president of Sales at the National Journal, a subsidiary of Times Mirror Corporation; and advertising sales manager at Harcourt Brace Jovanovich. He began his career in 1979 at the Soho Weekly News as an advertising sales representative. Erhardt is a graduate of St. John’s University in New York City, earning a Bachelor of Science degree in Communication Arts in 1979.
About Disney Direct-to-Consumer and International
The Walt Disney Company’s new Direct-to-Consumer and International segment aligns high-quality content and innovative technology to expand the Company’s global footprint; deliver world-class, personalized entertainment experiences to consumers around the world; and provide advertisers with unique opportunities to reach diverse audience segments across all of the Company’s media properties. The recently announced segment is responsible for the Company’s direct-to-consumer businesses globally, including the ESPN+ premium sports streaming service; the upcoming Disney-branded direct-to-consumer streaming service; and the Company’s ownership stake in Hulu.