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Procter & Gamble Co. is expanding into new categories a controversial test that gave Saatchi & Saatchi Advertising control over title selection and positioning for certain magazine buys.

P&G gave Saatchi such control over the women's service category last year, a move that angered publishers who felt it turned magazines into commodities by pegging decisions solely to price.

"Yes, we're looking to expand Saatchi's role in negotiating with magazines," said Robert Wehling,

P&G senior VP-advertising, market research and government relations.

P&G sent a memo to agencies late last week outlining the expansion of the test. P&G brand agencies will retain planning and be able to make title recommendations, but Saatchi can overrule those in test categories if it gets a better price.


While P&G is giving Saatchi expanded responsibilities now, it is still considering a plan that would give different agencies responsibility for different categories.

Publishers are far from pleased.

The policy "makes it easier for P&G to treat magazines as a commodity and just beat us up on price," said one publishing executive. Added the publisher of a women's magazine, "It's certainly not the greatest news if your company doesn't negotiate rates."

P&G, the fourth-largest advertiser in magazines last year, spent $146.1 million in the medium in the first seven months of 1996, a 12% jump, according to Competitive Media Reporting.

New York-based Saatchi already handles all magazine buying for P&G. But brand agencies in the past were able to pick titles to buy as part of their media plans. Those agencies include: Grey Advertising; Wells Rich Greene BDDP; D'Arcy Masius Benton & Bowles; N.W. Ayer & Partners; Jordan, McGrath, Case & Taylor; Leo Burnett Co.; and others.


A P&G spokeswoman said the plan is still being mapped out.

"We're actually still in the process of figuring out what categories and how soon," she said. She declined to quantify the amount spent so far in the test project but said, "We feel like the test was a success."

P&G's move could eventually influence how other leading marketers do business with magazines.

"[P&G] is tough to deal with," said a publishing consultant close to a Seven Sisters title. "They're buying print probably better than anyone else in America."

Contributing: Mark Gleason

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