P&G brings 'action steps' from Cannes

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Cannes visitors often return with jet lag and hangovers. Procter & Gamble Co.'s Cannes crew came back last week with something else-"action steps."

P&G's team vowed last week to return next year and make some changes in the interim to help them bring a better reel next time.

"We won't get from good to great without some big changes," said P&G Global Marketing Officer Jim Stengel. He promised to work on two immediately-having each P&G brand designate in writing who will call the shots on ads and having all P&G copy testing ask consumers: "Would you want to watch this commercial again?"

Those steps don't go as far as the sweeping organizational reforms and scrapping of copy testing that some executives at P&G and its agencies want, but they got a warm reception. When Mr. Stengel announced the designated decision-maker policy at a post-Film Awards party for P&G hosted by Publicis Groupe's Saatchi & Saatchi at La Palme d'Or in Cannes on June 21, one Saatchi creative immediately squealed and gave him a big hug. (To read full coverage of P&G in Cannes, go to AdAge.com QwikFIND aao78o.)


P&G first instituted "single-point accountability" three years ago in which a decision-maker is identified on each project. But point people change often, sometimes mid-project. The new policy would aim at consistency. "We need to clarify decision making by [business unit], put it on paper, share it broadly and not violate it," Mr. Stengel said.

Fabrizio Freda, VP-global snacks, offered to be first to implement the firmer policy. "Unless we change one important thing in the next six months, our success will be limited," he said. "If the only thing we accomplish [from Cannes] is that more creatives want to work with us, we'll only be half successful."

Saatchi CEO Kevin Roberts, speaking during P&G's June 21 Cannes debriefing, advocated making and testing in real markets more alternative campaigns, using more music and better directors. "You usually use crap directors," he said.

At least two of the four shortlisted P&G films, those from Saatchi for Pampers in Argentina and for Daz detergent from Leo Burnett Co. in the U.K., ran without pre-testing or despite unfavorable scores, he said.

cannes over copy

"Success at Cannes is more predictive [of market success] than [copy] testing," said Mathilde Delhoume, global ad development director for baby care, in what once would have seemed heresy for a P&Ger.

"Sometimes you don't trust the greatest piece of research you have, which is your gut," said Bob Isherwood, global executive creative director at Saatchi. If copy testing must be done, he said it should measure how much consumers want to see ads over again.

The testing change is a potential boon for Ipsos-ASI, whose tests already include the question, but a potential problem for ARS Group, another major P&G copy-test provider, which doesn't ask the question and would need time to develop a database around it.

Though P&G executives discussed broader organizational changes, they coalesced around Mr. Freda's suggestion that no solution would work for everyone but clarifying responsibility will help.

Ironically, while agencies are reeling from one of their worst periods ever, P&G is closing on possibly its most successful fiscal year in a decade. But Mr. Stengel finds no disconnect between that and turning Cannes into a festival of P&G criticism-external and internal.

"When the organization is performing really well, that's the time to push," he said. "Now we have a lot of momentum. We need to be pushing harder, looking for more breakthroughs, questioning some paradigms."

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