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P&G Embraces Facebook as Big Part of Its Marketing Plan

Opens Silicon Valley Office Aimed at Increasing Social-Media Presence

By Published on . 9

BATAVIA, Ohio (AdAge.com) -- Procter & Gamble Co. loves Facebook after all, and besides encouraging brands to develop a presence there, the world's biggest marketer has opened an office in Silicon Valley to help develop social-networking systems and digital-marketing capabilities with the website.

P&G's outlook on Facebook and social media as marketing tools appears rosier.
P&G's outlook on Facebook and social media as marketing tools appears rosier.
Those messages came in a meeting last week between P&G executives and venture capitalists, recounted by David Hornik on VentureBlog in a post that quickly picked up currency over the weekend on, of all places, Twitter.

"P&G's explicit goal for 2010 is to assure that each of its brands has a meaningful presence on Facebook, and they are willing to pay dearly for that," Mr. Hornik wrote. "And while P&G's thought leaders expressed some skepticism about the efficacy of Facebook's 'engagement ads,' they certainly view Facebook as a must-have for digital advertising and brand building. They didn't quantify what they are paying for that exposure, but it is quite clear that the numbers are very big."

Mr. Hornik contrasted the enthusiastic outlook on Facebook to a less-enthusiastic one by P&G executives toward Twitter. "They described Twitter as 'much more like television than one might think.' To P&G, Twitter is a great broadcast medium -- it is best for one-to-many communications that are short bursts of timely information," he wrote. "P&G folks do not view it as particularly relevant to what they are doing on the brand-building and advertising side. ... They do not believe that Twitter will ever approach the value they can get out of a Google or Facebook."

Mr. Hornik, after being contacted by P&G over the weekend, did backtrack on one big number -- a projection he had attributed to P&G that Facebook would reach 5 billion members globally. That 5 billion is actually the number of consumers P&G hopes to reach globally, up from the current 4 billion.

By whatever count, however, P&G's outlook on Facebook and social media as marketing tools appears rosier than Ted McConnell, general manager-interactive marketing and innovation, portrayed in a talk to a digital-marketing forum in Cincinnati in late 2008.

"What in heaven's name," he asked, "made you think you could monetize the real estate in which somebody is breaking up with their girlfriend?"

"Who said this is media?" he said. "Media is something you can buy and sell. Media contains inventory. Media contains blank spaces. Consumers weren't trying to generate media. They were trying to talk to somebody. So it just seems a bit arrogant. ... We hijack their own conversations, their own thoughts and feelings, and try to monetize it."

He went on to say, noting it was personal preference rather than company policy, "I really don't want to buy any more banner ads on Facebook."

He also expressed discomfort about the level of personalized targeting available through Facebook, though he said that Facebook applications are potentially valuable vehicles for advertisers.

In an e-mail, a P&G spokeswoman wrote that Mr. McConnell was speaking for himself, not the company, at the time. "P&G sees the value of digital and social media in consumers' lives and we want to connect with consumers in the environments where they are spending their time," she said. "For example, Facebook fan pages for brands [are] an easy way to engage with consumers in a forum where they've chosen to engage with us. (i.e. Pringles' fan page has over 2.8 million global fans). We don't have social media figured out, but we are encouraging our brands to include digital and social media into their holistic brand-building strategies."

She said the intended perspective on Twitter is that it's "a communication platform that is good for 'one-to-many' communication, similar to TV. Additionally, some of our brands are using Twitter to engage with consumers one-on-one when they have questions. We also view Twitter as a valuable listening tool."

She also clarified that what was referred to as an Innovation Center on VentureBlog is a "Connect & Develop" office near Palo Alto "to increase our presence in innovation hotspots," but is not the size of the sprawling complexes that P&G typically terms "innovation centers." Connect & Develop is a longstanding P&G program which seeks to solicit innovation from outside companies and consumers while also licensing its own technology to outside companies.

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