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Six Broader Questions in Light of P&G's Digital Advertising Ultimatum

By Published on .

Marc Pritchard speaks at IAB Annual Leadership Meeting.
Marc Pritchard speaks at IAB Annual Leadership Meeting. Credit: IAB

When the chief brand officer from the largest advertiser in the world announces that they don't "want to waste time and money on a crappy media supply chain," even those of us just outside digital media in packaging may feel a little twinge of dread in our stomachs.

If you missed it a few weeks ago, Procter & Gamble's Marc Pritchard publicly expressed his qualms with today's digital media practices, which he says lack alignment on definitions of key performance metrics, lack transparency to digital marketing activities, and lack diligence to comply with the company's standards. P&G will refuse to continue to pay for services and digital media that do not comply with standardized viewability metrics, according to Ad Age.

One can almost hear the resonance of A. G. Lafley, P&G's former chairman, from his book "The Game-Changer": "If you don't execute, the consumer doesn't care what the strategy was. Execution is the only strategy that consumers see."

I believe Pritchard's message creates waves beyond what he calls the "media supply chain," because, from where I sit, consumer goods companies are starting to reflect consumers' expectations of a unified physical and digital brand experience by bringing all of their customer communications, including packaging, closer to their digital media activities.

Upon reading Ad Age's article, any conscientious leader doing business with P&G in packaging (or any another part of the broader media supply chain) probably sat up and wondered if his or her organization could be affected by similar "laying down the law" behavior from P&G. We all certainly should.

Some future moves I imagine:

  • Pritchard or others at P&G could follow up with as much attention to other parts of the organization, such as packaging, or IT, or operations.
  • A new cost of doing business with P&G could include requirements to obtain accreditation or certification by an objective third party in order to continue as a qualified supplier for their company, as they are for "anyone who touches digital media" now.
  • Other consumer goods companies may follow P&G's lead and exert more pressure over their suppliers and partners, even to the point of withholding payment if results can't be proven. After all, Pritchard said to his industry colleagues, "Don't accept the excuses…There is tremendous power in the collective force of our industry."

To be clear, my intent is not to add fuel to the flame of your fear, but to help you anticipate changes that may affect your business in the future.

A few questions I reflected on that vendor partners to P&G (or to any large consumer goods company) might consider:

  • What kind of quality or effectiveness scrutiny might my business be subjected to in the future? Color tolerance? Packaging change tracking?
  • Am I aware of the promises my customers have made to their leadership based on the goods or services I render?
  • Are the handoffs between my customers and my team formalized and documented with specific, objective criteria for accepting a job?
  • Are we making best use of our customers' resources by reusing digital assets created for physical marketing channels (like packaging) across digital media?
  • Am I continually bringing more of my own processes online so I can digitally track, measure and report on the productivity of my business, even as my customers are engaged in enormous digital transformation initiatives?
  • Can I track, measure, and report on the outcomes we produce for our customers, and prove that those outcomes objectively meet or exceed expectations?

It isn't a stretch of the imagination to speculate that P&G -- and, perhaps, other consumer goods companies -- will start specifying more of their vendor partners' activity in the future, in an effort to control cost, secure outcomes and ensure the quality and effectiveness of work done on their behalf.

The real question is: Will you take this opportunity to prepare your business?

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