This story is part of Fast Company’s Most Creative People in Business 2022. Explore the full list of innovators who broke through this year—and had an impact on the world around us.
When Asad Ayaz started at Disney in 2005, the company had made exactly zero Marvel movies and zero Star Wars streaming series. Now Ayaz, who runs marketing across the company’s original productions, has a challenge worthy of a cape or a lightsaber. He not only has to manage an unprecedented number of original series and films as the company spends $33 billion on content in its 2022 fiscal year, but for each, he has to create campaigns and custom content that explain each property’s place in these expanded universes while simultaneously giving each story its own spotlight. All while getting people excited. Ayaz was responsible for the releases of two new series in the Star Wars galaxy in the last year (The Book of Boba Fett, and Obi-Wan Kenobi), and six in the Marvel universe (Loki, Falcon & Winter Soldier, WandaVision, Moon Knight, She-Hulk, and Ms. Marvel), plus four Marvel theatrical releases: Black Widow, Shang-Chi, Thor: Love & Thunder, and the Dr. Strange sequel.
Talk about a multiverse of madness.
“The connected universe does often work in our favor,” says Asad. He cites the Loki series, based on a popular secondary film character, as a prime example. “[Our work was about] giving him his own moment at the right time, not using the Thor franchise in the marketing at all, and saving a lot of surprises. Treating each series and movie as a true standalone is the key.” For the June debut of Ms. Marvel, Ayaz installed an image of the titular character atop the Welcome to New Jersey highway billboard, paying homage to the comics in which Ms. Marvel would alight on streetlights and urban signage—delighting fans with the knowing reference. It’s the kind of flourish that Ayaz has become known for, on top of his regular skill in executing the inimitable Disney playbook of teaser trailers and early peeks at characters and costumes that stoke anticipation without spoiling the final product. Ayaz’s efforts have garnered billions of media and social impressions in the last year, and helped drive $2.2 billion in box office (as of May 2022), and attract 64 million new Disney+ subscribers.