Digerati to Descend on Cincinnati

P&G Invites Top Execs From Google, Facebook, MySpace, Twitter for 'Digital Night'

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BATAVIA, Ohio (AdAge.com) -- At least for one night, Cincinnati is becoming the next Silicon Valley, as Procter & Gamble Co. summons the biggest names in digital and social media -- including top executives from Google, Facebook, MySpace and Twitter -- to its headquarters March 9 for a so-called Digital Night.

A P&G spokeswoman confirmed the gathering, referred to by some as "Digital Hack Night," though she said the "hack" part had been added by people in the digital-media world and did not refer to any interest by P&G in hacking digital devices or media.

A "Hack Night," one person said, sometimes refers in the industry to team-building efforts aimed at developing quick solutions or work-arounds, which, in this case, likely will be kept confidential by P&G.

The get-together in some ways resembles the Future of Advertising Stakeholders Summit P&G held in 1998, closer to the start of the digital age, bringing top media, agency and even competitor marketers to Cincinnati. The difference this time is that while agency and media executives are invited, competitors apparently aren't.

Keeping it quiet
Indeed, P&G has been relatively hush-hush about the event, asking at least some participants to keep it confidential and making invitations good for the invited person only so they're not transferable within companies. It's also not issuing an open invitation to its own marketing executives to the event, according to one person familiar with it, who said P&G is probably trying to keep attendance at manageable levels.

"It is about learning and engagement, and we're inviting in a broad range of digital people," the P&G spokeswoman said, including agencies and technology providers. "It's not just Silicon Valley," she said. "It's broader than that. And it's all about us being exposed to it, learning and engaging."

The effort, if nothing else, appears to settle the question of which side of the digital divide Marc Pritchard, who became global marketing officer last year, will occupy. It comes as P&G has been cutting marketing spending broadly in recent quarters, though largely maintaining internet spending.

Through the first half of 2008, P&G's spending on internet media was close to flat, down 1% to $34.3 million as overall media spending fell 9.7% to $1.5 billion, according to TNS Media Intelligence. (Full-year figures were not available from TNS as of press time.) That doesn't include search advertising, an area where searches on P&G categories indicate that the company clearly has increased spending in the past year.

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