Touch points or TV? Debate's on at P&G

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Procter & Gamble Co. Global Marketing Officer Jim Stengel has been on the stump in recent months, arguing the merits of P&G brands connecting with consumers via many touch points and holistic approaches.

He does not appear to have entirely convinced the man who manages P&G's relationship with its biggest agency, Saatchi & Saatchi, New York, and its holding company, Publicis Groupe. "If I hear the word `touch points' or `holistic' one more time, I'm going to throw up," said Kevin Roberts, CEO of Saatchi, in a speech at the American Association of Advertising Agencies conference earlier this year.

Mr. Stengel and his predecessor Bob Wehling have tried many approaches to make P&G less dependent on TV, from jawboning to changing agency compensation to a straight commission on brand sales to make it "media-neutral." But Mr. Roberts and many of P&G's agency creatives are still anything but neutral about TV.

LIfe beyond :30

"There must be-and is-life beyond the 30-second spot," said Mr. Stengel in a February speech to the 4A's media conference, arguing for better, more creative ways to measure the broad range of communications tools.

"The 30-second spot is not dead. And it won't die," said a text of Mr. Roberts' speech. He argued for better, more creative TV commercials.

If it's a debate-and Mr. Stengel doesn't believe it is, citing similarities more than differences-it's one Mr. Roberts has been winning with P&G brand teams. P&G's U.S. ad spending last year soared 25% to $2.5 billion, according to TNS Media Intelligence/CMR. Its spending on TV soared even more, up 28% to $1.8 billion.

Mr. Roberts' "point is TV is still important and will be important, and we think so, too," said Mr. Stengel in an interview. "It's just going to be different. And in a lot of the world it's not going to be a whole lot different from how it's been here in the last 10 years. But in the most sophisticated developing markets, it's changing as the consumer changes and so many options are open to her. ... Kevin is there in his behavior and the changes he's making within the agency and how we now work with them. So I think philosophically that we're right on."

Mr. Roberts sent Mr. Stengel an advance text of his speech, in which he also discussed other ways the ad industry can get from the C- grade Mr. Stengel gave it in February to A+, including better retail marketing-a discipline clearly embraced on both sides of the table. Mr. Stengel Blackberried his blessing.

`a lot of kevin in there'

To be sure, Mr. Roberts did make some riffs off the text, such as the "throw up" remark. "You've got to understand," Mr. Stengel said, "when Kevin gives a speech, there's a lot of Kevin in there."

Of course, if it's a debate, it's also one where the client has the last word. P&G recently announced a comprehensive communication planning review that puts much of the media planning work done by Publicis Groupe's MediaVest at risk in a contest with Grey Global Group's MediaCom and two other unnamed non-roster media shops. The review will give the newly anointed agency new power to consider TV along with the broad range of communication options in helping establish media plans for each brand.

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