P&G Sees Better Attitude Among Big Digital Players But Still Cuts Spending

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Credit: Procter & Gamble Co.

Big digital players have done much since he issued a challenge for them to get third-party audience verification, eliminate fraud and ensure brand safety a year ago, but Procter & Gamble Co. still has cut spending on them by 20 to 50 percent, Chief Brand Officer Marc Pritchard said in a speech to the Association of National Advertisers Media Conference in Orlando on Thursday.

Pritchard also outlined how his company will bring more media agency work in house and reunite creative and media sides of agencies.

The biggest change with digital players may be attitude. Pritchard recounted a recent meeting with YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki on what her platform is doing to shape up on accountability issues. "She shared her realization that YouTube had outgrown its infrastructure, similar to when a small city grows into a big metropolis," Pritchard said. "She realized the impact YouTube has on popular culture, leading to a genuine commitment to be on the 'right side of history' in making YouTube a positive force."

That meeting happened during the height of the "Tide Pods Challenge" crisis, with social-media posts encouraging young people to put the toxic detergent Pods in their mouths. "Within a matter of hours, Susan's team swept the entire YouTube platform clean of these dangerous videos and changed the algorithm to ensure Tide's safety video reached anyone searching for this unsafe behavior."

Within minutes of being contacted, Facebook VP-Global Marketing Solutions Carolyn Everson and Snap Chief Strategy Officer Imran Kahn took similar steps, Pritchard said. "This not only reflected the right attitude, it demonstrated that the work over the past year gave them better control over their platforms, and the ability to quickly fix problems."

Will it last? A search on "Tide Pods Challenge' early Thursday on YouTube found several videos showing folks putting Pods in their mouths, and no Tide safety video readily in sight.

Pritchard said P&G is still spending less on "big platforms" than a year ago, and is still off YouTube over brand-safety issues, putting more money into TV and e-commerce advertising among other things. Part of those cuts is just finding better alternatives and reducing excess frequency.

Pritchard also highlighted how and why his company is bringing more media buying in-house. Over time, marketers outsourced too much work to agencies, he said, turning brand managers into project managers. "We need fewer project managers and more brand entrepreneurs," he said.

"We'll pay for what creates value for consumers, and discern what work should be done by P&G people versus agency people. Media, data and analytics is enabling us to bring more media planning in-house, replacing multiple layers. When it comes to buying, our purchasing people can negotiate with the best of them, so we're doing more private marketplace deals in-house. And if entrepreneurs can buy digital media, why can't the brand team on Tide, Dawn and Crest be entrepreneurs and do the same? They can, and they will."

Pritchard said 2018 will be the year of "mass disruption" in media, including "mass reach with one-to-one precision."

P&G is using its new data management platform covering 80 percent of the U.S. population to move away from demographic targets toward "smart audiences," like first-time moms. Its brands now reach 90 percent of these "smart audiences," Pritchard said.

But it reaches them fewer times. "The learning lab is also helping us stop one of the most persistent mass marketing problems -- annoying frequency," he said. "We asked ourselves: 'How often do our ads really need to be seen to be understood?' Using proprietary cognitive and behavioral science, we confirmed that it's not rocket science to remember that 'Bounty is the Quicker Picker Upper' or 'If it's gotta be clean it's gotta be Tide.' When we combined cognitive science with data and analytics, we found that the average ad frequency was three times. That was a head fake, because the averages hid the fact that too many people were being reached more than 10 times and some as many as 20 times."

Part of P&G's push to cut a total of nearly $1.2 billion in agency and production fees over five years is moving away from the "Mad Men" model of account executives doing one-on-one coverage of brand executives, which led to less than half of P&G's budget actually being spent on creative talent.

P&G is also looking to break down silos by co-locating creative and media teams, such as Saatchi and Publicis Media and MSL PR on a recent Pampers program in the U.K.

"Many of us rue the day media agencies split from creative agencies," Pritchard says. "There were good reasons at the time because it created greater scale in TV and print media buying and efficiencies in operations. As the media world became more fragmented and fast-paced, the separation led to siloes, extra touches, complexity and cost. Through data and analytics, we can now bring media and creative back together for more growth with greater efficiency."

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