P&G joins National Geographic in star-studded docu-series on poverty, inequality and sustainability

Content partnership with Global Citizen will involve Always, Charmin and Tide

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Procter & Gamble Co. is backing a six-episode, celebrity-packed documentary series from National Geographic, airing this fall, that explores issues of extreme poverty, inequality and sustainable development.

The "Activate" series and broader content partnership will cover 172 countries and 43 languages, and feature appearances by celebrities such as Hugh Jackman, Usher, Pharrell Williams, Gayle King, Uzo Aduba and Rachel Brosnahan. It's co-produced by advocacy group Global Citizen and production studio RadicalMedia.

Spending wasn't disclosed.

P&G has done corporate social responsibility initiatives for many years linked to Global Citizen, but this is the biggest to date. Chief Brand Officer Marc Pritchard says he believes the effort will help both the planet and the company's bottom line.

It's also National Geographic's biggest marketer content partnership to date, says Courteney Monroe, president of National Geographic Global Television Networks.

Monroe says exactly how the P&G brands will integrate into National Geographic content remains under development and will likely vary.

The "Activate" name stems from closing the gap between people's stated intentions to do good and what they actually do, a primary goal of the program, says Pritchard.

Of course, "activation" is also marketer-speak for things that get people to buy brands.

"We've brought together multiple brands to participate," Pritchard says. For example, Always' efforts to help end "period poverty"—or the lack of access to sanitary products, which can keep girls from school during their periods—will be integrated into the program, Pritchard says. Charmin will be involved in a segment on sustainable sourcing, which is also an issue championed by Jackman.

Brosnahan will focus on disaster relief, "and help weave in what our brands are doing in a very organic way," Pritchard says, pointing to the Tide Loads of Hope program that sends mobile laundry units to disaster sites.

"Nine out of 10 consumers say they have a more positive image of a brand when it supports a social or environmental cause," Pritchard says. "Sixty percent of millennials make purchase decisions based on shared belief with a brand."

P&G also launched a 50L Home initiative during the World Economic Forum in Davos, working with Bloomberg Media's creative and strategic shop Panorama for the first time, in which it hopes to enlist other marketers to show people how to limit daily water consumption to 50 liters in an effor to help overcome water shortages.

Some of P&G's best-performing brands are doing cause-related marketing, such as Olay with its "Fearless to Face Anything" empowerment campaign and Ariel with its "Share the Load" campaign around equal division of household chores, Pritchard says.

Among other things, Activate will include a 12-page spread in the September issue of National Geographic magazine and other content in digital and social media. National Geographic now has nearly 100 million Instagram followers and led all brands in social-media engagements over the four years from 2014-2017, according to Shareablee.

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