Exclusive: P&G programs computer to rate creativity

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Procter & Gamble Co. has put in place a computerized system that uses advertising awards-including a measure of awards per client dollar spent-to rate the creative output of its agencies and others. It's the latest of several steps by the once-staid marketer to improve creativity of its ads, and could be used as a tool to determine brand assignments.

The system, created by the Cincinnati Consulting Consortium, a federation largely of former P&G executives, tracks agency performance in global, national and regional award competitions to rate creativity. It also factors in agency revenue either by local shop, global network or even holding company to measure awards per client dollar spent. More global and more prestigious awards carry greater weight, and the system tracks several years of results, giving greater sway to more recent years.

"This study provides us with another way of looking at agencies we don't currently work with today," said a P&G spokeswoman. "We're constantly seeking the best-in-class agencies and right now not all of our roster agencies are on that list. ... We are looking at who ranks at the top of that list and what regional brands are out there within our portfolio that are currently unassigned or not linked with one of our roster agencies that might benefit from a test-and-learn attitude in working with one of these agencies."

P&G has only been working with the system for about two months and has yet to apply the system to change any agency assignments, the spokeswoman said. "What it's resulted in is us going and calling on some of the agencies and learning about their capabilities."

The overwhelming majority of P&G's ad assignments won't immediately be affected by use of the new evaluation tool. Brands that currently have no roster-agency assignments are generally small and limited to one or a handful of countries, such as Ivory soap and Daily Defense hair care. Those brands have been handled on a project basis by Cincinnati shops Benchmark and Barefoot Advertising.

But P&G has a long history of trying new approaches in limited tests before expanding them more broadly. So the system appears to increase pressure on all P&G shops to improve creatively, particularly WPP Group's recent acquisition-Grey Global Group-which has lagged behind other P&G roster shops in award competitions. P&G's roster also includes Publicis Groupe's Saatchi & Saatchi, Leo Burnett, Publicis Worldwide and Kaplan Thaler Group.

Neither P&G nor the Cincinnati Consulting Consortium divulged many details of how agencies rate in the new system. But Dick Bruder, president of the CCC, named independent Wieden & Kennedy and Publicis Groupe's Fallon, Minneapolis, among strong performers.

possible `challengers'

Fallon, which has the benefit of being in P&G's agency primary holding company and which has relatively few assignments from P&G competitors, could stand to be a winner from the ratings. Last summer, P&G Global Marketing Officer Jim Stengel mentioned the shop as a possible "challenger agency" P&G could turn to within its existing holding-company roster.

Development of the system was spearheaded within P&G by Kim Kraus, a purchasing executive who reports to Mr. Stengel, and by P&G's advertising-development department.

The CCC team that developed the system included Mr. Bruder, Susan Mackey, a former P&G market-research executive; Mary Beth Price, a former P&G media executive who later helped found Cincinnati media independent Empower MediaMarketing; and Norm Levy, a legendary former P&G advertising-development director who trained generations of marketing executives.

As a supplement to the system, Mr. Levy, a traditionalist and advocate of benefit-driven advertising, has also rated the agencies qualitatively using his evaluation of their work.

CCC is preparing to launch the creativity-ranking model developed for P&G broadly as a product for other marketers, said Mr. Bruder, who said it can be customized to give varying weights to award competitions depending on the marketer's preference.

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