Procter & Gamble isn't joining Facebook boycott yet, but isn't ruling it out
Procter & Gamble Co. isn’t committing to join a Facebook boycott, but Chief Brand Officer Marc Pritchard isn’t ruling it out either.
In a wide-ranging talk at the Cannes Lions Live virtual event on Wednesday about P&G’s response to recent COVID-19, diversity and discrimination issues, Pritchard broadly threatened to stop spending on platforms that don’t meet company standards.
“Freedom of expression is a right, but civility is a responsibility, and we’re working with media providers and platforms to take appropriate systemic action,” Pritchard said. “Where we determine our standards are not met, we will take action, up to and including stopping spending, just like we’ve done before. There are hundreds of programs and thousands of digital channels and sites where we do not advertise because they don’t meet our standards.”
Facebook isn’t one of those yet. Dozens of P&G brands are advertising on its platforms. But civil rights organizations including the NAACP, which P&G announced it was supporting with a donation earlier this month, have called for advertisers to boycott Facebook next month over how it moderates hate speech.
Asked in an interview if P&G would join that boycott, Pritchard said: “We’re reviewing every media channel, network, platform and program on which we advertise, making sure the content and commentary respects all people, and we’re not advertising on or near content that we determine to be hateful, discriminatory or denigrating. We’re reviewing everything.”
As one of the biggest advertisers in the U.S. and world, P&G needs to reach huge audiences. And Pritchard’s “hands on the keyboard” mantra encourages brand managers to do more of their own media buying, which Facebook and Instagram’s self-service platforms facilitate. That’s led to speculation P&G would find it hard to live without Facebook.
Asked about that, Pritchard said: “I can go back to our history on this, back in 2017, when we called for brand safety and made some substantial decisions. There are, as I’ve said before, many fish in the ocean.”
Platforms need to take action now on hateful and discriminatory content as they did on violent and terrorist content then, he said. Asked if he believes Facebook has done that, Pritchard said: “My assessment is that with every company I’ve spoken with, that is a high priority.”
In his Cannes Live keynote, Pritchard also showed a new P&G “Choose Equal” ad from Grey on the disproportionate burden women face as frontline workers and victims of economic hardship in the current pandemic, comparing it to similar issues in prior pandemics and downturns. “These times are not unprecedented, but they give us another chance for equality,” says a voiceover. (Watch the ad at the top of this article.)
P&G has made similar points in recent ads about the disproportionate impact COVID-19 has had on Black and Hispanic people (distributed on Facebook, among other places). On the latter, Pritchard noted his own experience as the son of a Hispanic man who worked in a Colorado hospital and took him on trips to provide healthcare for migrant workers.
Pritchard noted that his father, born with the surname Gonzalez, ultimately took the surname of his adoptive parents. “Although I’ve experienced bias and intolerance, I have largely been viewed as, and been afforded the assumed ‘advantages’ or ‘privileges’ of, a white man,” Pritchard said. “I realize that had I taken my father’s birth name, Gonzalez, my life would have taken a different path. I recognize the ‘advantages’ of being viewed as white. But Black men don’t have that privilege.”
Pritchard said P&G has set a goal of 40 percent multicultural representation within the company and is pushing for similar moves by agency teams and production crews, where he said, “we’re way short” but making progress.
He also noted P&G is restructuring buying systems to increase investment in Black-owned or operated media, agencies and other marketing suppliers. And he said P&G has launched a comprehensive review of all brand marketing to ensure it “accurately and respectfully portrays Black people—and all people,” using the Association of National Advertisers’ Cultural Impact Insights Measure to “hold ourselves accountable.”