P&G's Pritchard on Where Marketing, Media and Metrics Are Going

Even at 35% of Spending, Biggest Advertiser Still Sees Room to Grow Digital

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Always decided to buy the Super Bowl 10 days before the game.
Always decided to buy the Super Bowl 10 days before the game.
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The ad industry needs to break its addiction to outdated metrics by focusing on sales results and get a better handle on digital-audience measures such as viewability, said Procter & Gamble Co. Global Brand Officer Marc Pritchard.

That was one big takeway Mr. Pritchard offered the audience at the recent Association of National Advertisers' Media Leadership Conference. But despite measurement woes, P&G is still bullish on the medium. In an interview, Mr. Pritchard said that while P&G spends up to 35% of its media budget on digital in the U.S., he thinks that number can go higher. He also sees potential for media buying broadly going the way of securities trading, with a growing share done programmatically.

Despite bleaker outlooks from others at the conference, such as Publicis Groupe Chief Strategist Rishad Tobaccowala, on the marketing industry's tendencies to navel gaze and its talent crisis, Mr. Pritchard is far more upbeat.

As a sign that things can still move fast and effectively when there's a good idea, he pointed to strong sales results, publicity and social-media impressions, and merchandising support for the recent Always #LikeAGirl ad -- which P&G decided to air on the Super Bowl only 10 days before the game.

Ad Age: If you have the information on sales impact from advertising that you think you have, why are things like viewability or non-human traffic an issue?

Mr. Pritchard: I'm not saying that the measurements exist on a broad scale. My talk was more a call to action for moving in that direction, because if we can be more consistent about linking the actions we take in advertising and the sales outcome, then it's going to make a lot of the other debates go away. Everybody's got some form of getting attribution to sales. But my call to the companies we work with and the measurement organizations is 'Let's get more of that.'

Ad Age: I've heard P&G has had success with Facebook specifically, but has maxed out, and people are starting to pull back.

Mr. Pritchard: I think there's still a lot of upside there. It's where consumers spend a lot of their time … not just within Facebook but the other social-media platforms.

Ad Age: With digital broadly, even as you get more efficient [with programmatic buying], do you start to top out on scale on how much you can spend?

Mr. Pritchard: That may happen, but it hasn't yet. The thing about programmatic, it's just inevitable, because of the power of technology … and at the heart of it to make it a better experience for consumers.

Ad Age: I've heard people make comparisons broadly between all media and securities trading – programmatic trading applied to another set of assets. Is that where things are heading?

Mr. Pritchard: If you think about it, when you have a transaction that's required to create value, you now have a huge source of data and the ability to analyze it, you can see how it would definitely move in that direction. The difference is at the end of our chain is a value proposition to consumers and the creative aspect of it. That's what makes it I think a lot more exciting and interesting.

Ad Age: One point Rishad Tobaccowala brought up in his talk was that companies tend to benchmark against their close competitive sets, and the real threats come from outside. Any truth to that for P&G?

Mr. Pritchard: No. We now more than ever look everywhere, because of the nature the business and consumers are changing. I think [P&G Chairman-CEO A.G. Lafley] has helped us, given the four years of experience he had [outside the company, working in private equity] have a different way of looking at things.

Ad Age: Mr. Tobaccowala also brought up what he sees as a crisis of talent for the marketing industry. Is P&G getting its fair share?

Mr. Pritchard: Absolutely. I disagree with his point. I think we have a remarkable flow of talent within the entire industry, not just P&G. I work with some amazing people everywhere – at agencies, publishers, suppliers. Frankly, I've never felt better about the talent.

Ad Age: Always actually decided to be in the Super Bowl 10 days in advance. How did that work? Was it more you just realized the space was available, or the brand just decided they wanted to and did?

Mr. Pritchard: The brand wanted to do something. They realized they could cut it to a 60 second spot [and NBC] had one big spot that we could get. We got the 'Today Show' to do something the Thursday before. [The brand] cranked out Twitter, Facebook … and put some merchandising against it.

The merchandising support was the hardest. But [retailers] saw the idea and decided it was good and turned on a dime. It really was fun. I was privileged to be a part of it, but the brand group just did a fantastic job, and there's an example of agencies, publishers and suppliers all working together to make things happen, not the latest new technology or data and analytics capability.