Procter & Gamble Is a 'Genius'

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Credit: Procter & Gamble Co.

Procter & Gamble Co. was one of the first big marketers to jump into automated digital media buying, developing its own proprietary system eight years ago, well before "programmatic" became an industry buzzword. Now P&G is moving away from programmatic and plowing more money into e-commerce platforms run by the likes of Amazon and Walmart, according to a report from consultancy L2.

The strategy appears to be working, according to L2, which gave P&G its highest, or "genius," rating in the home-care space for its digital marketing practices, followed closely by Clorox Co.

Big traditional marketers have in recent years tried to prove or maintain their relevance by spending more on digital, but L2 suggests the focus has shifted to spending more wisely, relying less on fraud-fraught programmatic and more on search— closer to where people make their buying decisions.

P&G's Tide invested in general or so-called top-of-the funnel queries, such as "how to do laundry" while Clorox went after "how to clean shower doors," L2 said, but they avoided more specific queries that tend to draw more bidders and costlier clicks. They're even sitting out bids on their own brands.

A quick search last week showed both P&G and Clorox had bid on "how to do laundry" at a time when neither had bid on their own brand names, leaving retailers such as Walmart, Target and Amazon to duke it out on those more expensive keywords.

"Winning brands like Tide capitalize on the Google search visibility of their distribution partners and manage to be featured in a large number of e-tailer Google results that link to their products," L2 said. The e-tail focus can be found even around Super Bowl merchandising, where Omnicom's Integer Group led a promotion for P&G brands on Amazon last week and during the game, not unlike past in-store promotions at the likes of Walmart.

"Programmatic is still an important tool to reach our target consumers in an effective and efficient way," a P&G spokeswoman says regarding the L2 report. "Of course, we continue to optimize our programmatic approach."

P&G is moving more media buying in-house via automated platforms, but intends to focus more on private marketplaces and higher-quality inventory. P&G Chief Brand Officer Marc Pritchard has acknowledged that using programmatic to buy display ads on "long tail" website inventory at rock-bottom prices has largely failed.

"We got what we paid for," he acknowledged, adding that P&G is basing more digital buying around e-commerce data supplied by Amazon and others.

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