Is P&G's Brief on a Call for Innovation or a Procurement Stunt?

RFP Seeks Cost-Saving Ideas, Not True Innovation

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On Sept. 11, Procter & Gamble Co. issued a cry for help: We need cheaper, quality video content, and we will take it from anywhere. Where did it post this plea? On NASA's website, ensuring that it doesn't miss any possible avenues for solutions.

Here is the question: Is this a procurement publicity stunt or a real call for innovation? If it's the latter, let us loose. This industry has some of the most talented and innovative thinkers and creative minds available. And a true opening for innovation is long overdue.

P&G's brief seems to be full of the same rhetoric aimed to get what it is currently getting from its creative partners -- only cheaper. And it also seems to wag a finger at the industry for being "essentially the same as it has been for 50 years." In its brief on the NASA website, P&G described the process as follows: Agencies come up with ideas; they then select a "good" director, who works through a production company; and the brand approves the copy. As if there is something wrong with this type of simplistic collaborative model. If anything, what is described is a client-driven sequence put in place to handle its requirements and brand partnerships.

As for P&G, it's clear the company has been able to tap into exemplary creativity, as evidenced by its award-winning, multi-platform work for Old Spice; its gorgeous brand messaging aimed at mothers during the past two Olympics Games; and its new honest and simple campaign for Always, just to name a few.

Each was appropriately scaled, conceptualized and delivered with enviable results in marketing. Sure, some of the ads were expensive -- when you draw on directors like Alejandro González Iñárritu and Lance Acord to achieve that emotional reaction at such a high level, there is a cost. The same goes for "the man your man can smell like" -- he engaged millions online for Old Spice, and came with a pricetag in line with high production values. But on the other hand, web and social pieces for Old Spice were cranked out by the dozens per day at a fraction of the price. Was it all worth it? Based on CMO Marc Pritchard's enthusiastic presentation of the work onstage in Cannes, it hit the mark and more than met the client's expectations and marketing needs.

Everything I am seeing in this intergalactic RFP is asking for work in line with what P&G has been winning accolades for in recent years -- only for much less cost-wise, which explains the call to anyone with a GoPro (terrestrial or not). P&G seems to understand that these days more content is needed for many more outlets -- all marketers do, so budget becomes a real issue, as does approach. But is this RFP an attempt at innovation or just a play for cost savings?

I must have read P&G's RFP 10 times before finding clarity that the one driving factor that is going to create innovation is missing: How is the brand going to change? There is nothing in its "need" or measurement of "success" that speaks to innovation, nor does it ask for it. All this brief seems to ask for is cost-reduction ideas (for free, of course). In fact, the only thing that P&G is committing to reduce is its use of celebrity endorsers.

Creative people in the industry today are as innovative as any creative thinkers in the world. And they are hardwired to make stuff -- really good stuff for marketers based on their needs and expectations as articulated. These creative innovators are not the amateur-hour "enter a contest to do an ad" folks. They are talented professionals who, when tasked with working outside the box or on limited budgets, consistently deliver.

Does P&G really want innovation in its processes for the production of video for marketing? Is the company prepared to articulate what it wants, manage expectations (and projects) internally, and have its brand management teams primed to deal with scaled-back levels of video execution without all of the bells and whistles of the past "50 years" when appropriate? Can the company deal with a decentralized massive volume of content currently managed by its agency partners? Is it willing to shatter its own models in order to allow innovation to start from the top?

If the answer is yes, there are 380 companies in the AICP (Association of Independent Commercial Producers) that have the ability to blow your minds with ideas, efficiencies and talent. But if this is merely a procurement stunt, bravo! There are some aliens out there who have always wanted to direct. You've certainly got their attention.

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