Procter & Gamble Co., with its $1.46 billion in measured media advertising and $2.69 billion in total U.S. marketing expenditures making it the nation's largest advertiser, wields the power that comes from being No. 1 in numerous product categories and several media categories as well.
Since last November, career P&G executive Robert Wehling has been in charge of it all, assuming responsibility for advertising and market research-added to previous public affairs duties-from Robert Herbold, who moved to Microsoft Corp. (see Page S-6).
The market research portion of his title is in no way less significant at the company that practically invented that discipline in the early 1920s.
P&G is the uncontested heavyweight in broadcast media-the No. 1 advertiser on network TV, with $680.9 million in '94; the No. 1 advertiser in syndicated TV with $189.8 million; and No. 1 in cable TV with $166.7 million.
"What we at P&G have always done is move with the consumer," says Mr. Wehling. "When the consumer moved from watching just three networks to watching a growing number of independent outlets and cable channels, we organized appropriately to make sure we were reaching" them.
But it's a leader in other ways, too. Since the dawn of the 1990s, P&G lead the way in swinging its massive weight behind the "everyday low pricing" practices of major retail customers, changing its marketing practices along the way. And, as new media have been created by the digital age, Procter determined to be a leader in learning about interactive technologies and their consumer communications opportunities-in 1994 urging the ad industry to work to ensure a role in the emerging medium.
"All advertisers have an obligation....to plan for the future," Mr. Wehling notes. "Now the world is changing again. [It] may not be critical mass today, but we're convinced that new media, however composed, will be an important part of future reality. Those who learn about it now will be best able to use it; we want to be at the forefront."
The company is increasing its own role, having named Grey Interactive as its agency of record in new media, and reportedly is negotiating with programming suppliers to work with them in devising ad opportunities.
"I believe the biggest reason [the inroads into advertising of new media is] not happening faster is that there hasn't been enough attention up to now to bringing women into the new-media environment," says Mr. Wehling, always mindful of P&G's ofttimes target audience. "Meaningful content for women has got to be a critical factor."
But replace TV?
"I cannot imagine a time when more than two-thirds of the population-I have trouble seeing even half-won't be interested in collectively watching [regular quality TV programming] like today's `E.R.'....something that people can talk about around the coffee machine the next morning."
In fact, he says, "all major advertisers have a real stake in doing anything we can to help assure continued availability of broad-reach media in [a consumer] environment which will become increasingly fractionated."
Mr. Wehling, 57, a senior VP since 1994, brought an extensive brand management and advertising background to his new role, having served as a brand manager in the 1960s, advertising manager of bar soaps and household cleaning products in the '70s and general advertising and marketing services positions in the '80s.
From his new perch at P&G, does Mr. Wehling have any concerns about the recent rash of media conglomerations, such as Walt Disney Co. buying ABC?
"No," he quickly, surely responds, noting instead "real opportunities for advertisers."
He concludes: "To have the potential capabilities of a Disney/ABC is something we look forward to."
Robert L. Wehling
Procter & Gamble Co.
Ad budget: $1.46 billion (U.S.)
Agency roster: Leo Burnett Co.; Burrell Advertising; D'Arcy Masius Benton & Bowles; Lotas Minard Patton McIver; Grey Advertising; GBF/Ayer; Jordan, McGrath, Case & Taylor; N.W. Ayer & Partners; Saatchi & Saatchi Advertising; Tatham Euro RSCG; Wells Rich Greene BDDP.
Career: His first job out of Denison University (Phi Beta Kappa honors) was as a brand assistant at P&G, a career emphasis he continued through that decade after serving as a lieutenant in the Air Force's Strategic Air Command. First elected a company VP in 1988 (VP-marketing services), following the tragic Chilko River accident that took the life of VP Robert Goldstein, he shifted to public affairs in 1990 and was elected senior VP last year.