So P&G is now going to choose with which production companies its agencies can work in the U.S. From a select group of production shops chosen by its roster of agencies, P&G will demand detailed financial information and discounted long-term production costs. The marketing giant is looking to reduce the number of production vendors it uses to 30 (from over 100) and set production rates for the next two years, at least. Production companies that agree to P&G's terms will be given "preferred vendor" status but not guaranteed any work.
Sounds great. What happens now?
1. Production companies get squeezed, again. We can all agree that creativity can flourish under pressure, be it the temporal, financial or peer variety, and that a lot of great ideas have been executed for next to nothing. But production companies are consistently asked to do what is realistically big-budget-level work for not much beyond the reel/career boost the resultant campaign bestows on the director involved. Given that P&G so rarely backs reel-boosting work, participating production companies can't count on banking even prestige.
2. Creativity suffers. The still-moist notion that it's possible to do interesting things for huge, unglamorous marketers is put out of its misery. The best creatives do whatever they can to not work on P&G. Here's the part where I sound naïve, thinking that every marketer wants to actually do what you would call "creative work." Of course not all of them (perhaps not many of them) do. But this is a company that's eagerly claimed the mantle of creative marketer, one that accepted marketer-of-the-year honors at Cannes, billed as the industry's premier celebration of brand creativity. But creativity isn't just about communications, it's about process too. P&G might not be the best advertiser, but it has demonstrated innovation in certain areas (product design). Rethinking its production processes would have been a great opportunity to apply some creativity -- as the Association of Independent Commercial Producers has suggested, perhaps tying production costs to guaranteed shoot days or payment terms. But the proposal doesn't seem to encompass anything creative or anything that encourages creativity.
3. P&G creates the appearance of creating significant efficiencies.
4. P&G gains no such efficiencies. See No. 1. Production companies already do a lot of work for less than fair market value. As one agency producer puts it, "It doesn't matter what the budget is; there's always a way to find a way to do something. I don't think these rates are going to be that great, or beyond what we could get on a given day. It won't give them the results they want -- and it'll set up this tension in the industry about people wanting P&G rates."
5. The best talent gets yet another reason to leave the industry. And the talent that might have, once upon a time, considered entering advertising gets another reason to look elsewhere for a creative career. In the wake of this country's financial crisis, many are looking to a new, small-business-driven innovation boom. With Wall Street a little off its game, other fields stand to benefit from an influx of new brains. Precedents like this encourage those brains to bypass advertising and marketing, where, not only do you not own the great ideas you create, but where you're now under orders as to with whom and on what basis you can collaborate. Buh-bye, innovators and creative geniuses.
6. Another of the final drops of joy left in the industry evaporates. We're all painfully aware of the choices that most businesses have been forced to make in the last year. But here's to P&G for making the industry just that little bit shittier just because it can.
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Teressa Iezzi is the editor of Creativity magazine and Creativity-Online.com.