Privately, P&G attendees at a speaker’s dinner the night before said they’ve seen little sign yet that consumers are changing behavior by trading down or buying—though that could change depending on how long the effects of the war in Ukraine last, said one attendee.
Speaking later, CivicScience CEO John Dick said that while his firm’s Economic Sentiment Index is near multi-year lows, two-thirds of consumers still see their economic condition as better or equal to where it was before the pandemic. He showed a number of categories where people say they’re cutting back due to inflation, but said surveys are often bad at measuring what people actually do, though better at the “who and the why.”
How digital is reshaping P&G marketing
This was the 11th year of P&G’s Signal conference, all on the watch of P&G Chief Brand Officer Marc Pritchard and John Battelle, now CEO of Recount Media and longtime moderator of the event. And in his Q&A, Pritchard offered insights into how much impact digital now has on the biggest global advertiser (and No. 3 in the U.S.) per Ad Age Datacenter.
“Programmatic media is now our No. 1 spend pool and growing at a rapid rate,” Pritchard said. A spokeswoman later clarified that he was referring to the digital “spend pool,” not overall media spending.
Artificial intelligence has reshaped how P&G evaluates advertising, he said. The company’s “AI Studio” tool has transformed a copy-testing process that used to take 30 days and $30,000 to test per ad into a one-day, $1,000 process, Pritchard said. “It can be applied to literally any kind of communication, and it’s spreading around the world.”
Pampers marketing now starts with a “Due Date Calendar” that reaches people in the early stages of online search during pregnancy and leads them into a Pampers Rewards app. The largely digital and relationship marketing plan now reaches 95% of target parent households compared to the prior 60% reach of TV-centric plans, and at a savings of $25 million annually in the U.S., according to Pritchard.
Walmart is getting better as an ad and education platform
While it hasn’t quit its day job as a retailer, Walmart is making great strides as an ad platform and higher education backer, said CEO Doug McMillon. “We weren’t really good at first in terms of interaction with Walmart Connect when people were buying ads,” he said. “But we’re getting better, and the business is growing quickly.” He added: “Marc and P&G have taken advantage of that opportunity as well as anybody.”
McMillon also said that while he’d like the number to be higher, 77,000 Walmart employees have now enrolled in the company’s full-tuition-and-books-paid Live Better U college education program—a number bigger than any single U.S. state university campus. So far, 11,000 have earned degrees.
“You could argue maybe the government or the education system should fill that role,” McMillon said. “But there’s a gap. There’s a void. There’s a need. And we’re proud to fill it.”
TikTok is not a social platform
TikTok may get classified as social media, but it’s not, said Blake Chandlee, president of global business solutions. “We’re not a social platform,” he said. “We’re an entertainment platform that’s driven by the community. And so the kind of content that you experience for your feed is going to be different.” Chandlee said he still uses other social platforms such as Facebook and Instagram, but added: “TikTok plays a different role in my life. It's replacing television.”
TikTok gets tougher scrutiny than Meta
Battelle asked Chandlee about recent controversies over sharing data with the Chinese government, to which he repeated TikTok’s statements that it doesn’t and won’t share data with China and that its database isn’t housed there. Off stage, in the conference’s virtual chat side rail, the social impact of TikTok’s addictive content-serving algorithm got considerable scrutiny from P&G and non-P&G attendees. Chandlee went over the extensive third-party oversight the company has allowed for its data handling and algorithms. “We opened up our algorithms for everybody to look at,” he said.
TikTok has “kind of crowded out the other elephant” in the room, Battelle said later in questioning Nicola Mendelsohn, VP of Meta’s Global Business Group. “It must be kind of nice not to be the focus of what can be pretty relentless press.”