P&G executives already have sorted through storyboards from about 25 brands, more than half of the 42 P&G brands that spent at least $10 million on media last year, according to TNS Media Intelligence/CMR. P&G chose eight finalists earlier this month, all of which will produce commercials for final judging.
Those finalists are Charmin and Prilosec OTC, handled by Publicis Worldwide; Crest Night Effects, Crest Whitestrips and Old Spice, at Saatchi & Saatchi; Pringles and Mr. Clean, via Grey Worldwide; and Swiffer, with Kaplan Thaler Group. All but Grey are in the Publicis Groupe holding company network and all are located in New York.
The rules are simple: It has to be new work, and the brand has to pay the estimated $2.4 million for the 30-second spot out of its budget. P&G won't comment on the price, which is part of its $300 million-plus cross-platform deal with Viacom, said Greg Ross, director of media and marketing-North America. Viacom's CBS airs Super Bowl XXXVIII on Jan. 26.
The potential to create a career-altering ad may never have been greater. Making the final selection by this winter is the high-power panel of Chairman-CEO A.G. Lafley, Vice Chairman and President-Global Market Development Kerry Clark, Global Marketing Officer Jim Stengel and President-North America Rob Steele. Mr. Stengel and Mr. Steele, along with a panel of marketing, media and advertising development executives, made the initial cut.
With mainly women's brands and a media-buying approach heavy on targeting and bang for the buck, P&G has never been a big sports advertiser and never, according to Mr. Ross' research, advertised on the Super Bowl, though Tide has been on pre-game and Pringles on post-game shows.
"We bought the spot as part of an overall package, which provided us with the opportunity to think a bit differently," said Mr. Ross, "to think about this in a broader context to inspire some great creative." Media and advertising development executives came up with the idea of using a contest.
The contest idea came close on the heels of Mr. Stengel embarking on P&G's first trip to the International Advertising Festival at Cannes in June to spark more creativity in P&G ads.
"Every brand wants to win this [contest], and I'm finding it exciting personally and professionally," said Neil Kreisberg, exec VP at Grey Global Group. "We're having some fun."
But creativity isn't the only selection criterion for the Super Bowl ad, Mr. Ross said. "We're looking for a strong match with the target audience, what's the best fit for the venue of the Super Bowl and what's the opportunity to build the business."
There's no set date for a final decision, but efforts won't be wasted for those not selected, he said. Some of the original storyboards may yet be produced, and he expects all eight finalist ads will be used in campaigns. "We're really pleased with the excitement [the contest has] generated both within the brand organization and our agency partners," he said. But asked whether P&G will keep buying Super Bowl ads in the future now that it's gotten a taste of the big show, he said: "We'll see."
P&G Super Bowl spot finalists and agency
Charmin-Publicis Worldwide, New York
Crest Night Effects and Crest Whitestrips Saatchi & Saatchi, New York
Mr. Clean- Grey Worldwide, Toronto
Old Spice-Saatchi, New York
Prilosec OTC-Publicis, New York
Pringles-Grey, New York;
Swiffer-Kaplan Thaler Group, New York