How Procter & Gamble's Elevator Pitch lifts small agencies
Cornett is a Lexington, Kentucky, agency about an hour from Procter & Gamble Co.’s Cincinnati headquarters, but it took a meeting in a New Orleans elevator, of sorts, to get the two together.
“It’s always been a dream of ours to work with them,” says Cornett Executive Creative Director Whit Hiler. But the chance finally came from participating in P&G’s Elevator Pitch at the 2019 Ad Age Small Agency Conference in New Orleans. The agency put together a “Ten Reasons Why P&G Needs To Partner with Cornett” list full of logic, jokes and goofy visuals, Hiler says.
Cornett won an award from P&G for the best pitch. But, more importantly, it won work from the marketer after P&G VP-Brand Building Integrated Communications Pete Carter came for a visit.
The elevator pitch ultimately led to a series of assignments for P&G’s Stressballers Gummies supplements and to Cornett becoming an official sponsor and one of the founding agencies of the BLAC Internship program, an independent-agency internship collective for bringing more young Black people into advertising through an eight-week internship.
“Through the Ad Age Small Agency Conference, the P&G Elevator Pitch and follow-up discussions, we’ve met a number of talented people and agencies—and uncovered a diverse rangs of capabilities and agency ‘superpowers,’” says Matt Lumb, VP-of brand building integrated communications at P&G. “We’ve been able to connect with dozens of potential new agency partners, several of whom have gone on to work on P&G business – including OKRP, SRG, Cornett, The Variable and DCX Accelerator.”
The connection via the Small Agency Conference also has helped build the BLAC internship program to build a “pipeline of talent in the industry and increase the diversity of storytelling and creators,” Lumb says.
The conference and the Elevator Pitch have helped P&G “develop a deeper understanding of the agency landscape, including agencies of all sizes," it says. And so, even though the elevator will be running only virtually this year as it did last, it will still be going during the upcoming Aug. 2-4 Ad Age Small Agency Conference.
Pandemic adaptation has become a hallmark of recent assignments, too. The original national 15-second TV spot for Stressballs was turned upside down in early 2020 by a production shutdown wrought by COVID-19. “We had to figure out plan B pretty damn quick,” says Jason Majewski, Cornett’s creative director on the project.
So the agency developed a new additional video concept based on stop-motion animation. Even with a modest budget, the shop directed the shoot in Vancouver via Zoom and still delivered in time to support the summer product launch.
The Variable—a Winston-Salem, North Carolina, shop—got to try its elevator pitch more informally when agency people unknowingly found themselves sitting next to Carter at the Small Agency Awards in 2019 and then a week later walked him through their capabilities. A few months later, he called back with an assignment.
P&G had long struggled against Kimberly-Clark Corp.’s Pull-Ups and Goodnites in nighttime bedwetting products. So rather than go after the 3- to 5-year-old market, P&G tried going after products for kids ages 6-12, where one out of six still has problems. The Variable helped P&G craft a new brand from the ground up—Ninjamas. They’re significantly slimmer than Pull-Ups or Goodnites, so they aren’t seen under pajamas and don’t make an embarrassing swishing sound when kids walk.
The agency developed an integrated campaign created and shot entirely remotely after COVID-19 lockdown restrictions lifted around the idea of “the best protection you’ve (n)ever seen” that leaves kids feeling “Ninjawesome.” It included comic books featuring the brand’s “ninja squad” and a social strategy and creative featuring real talk for frustrated parents. The Variable got a green light from P&G to lead an influencer campaign.
By late 2020 Ninjamas launched with online video that performed at four times P&G norms for brand awareness lift, and the brand reached its three-year market share goal with one top-five retailer within six months.
O'Keefe, Reinhard & Paul had a more conventional Elevator Pitch meeting with P&G. “For anyone who hasn’t had the pleasure of standing in an elevator recording booth in the middle of a hotel lobby and distilling their agency’s story down to two minutes, well, I highly recommend it,” says Tom O’Keefe, CEO of OKRP. He described it as “tight, transparent and super professional from the beginning—a reminder of how all pitch processes can and should go when done right.”
Since then, O’Keefe says, P&G has followed through, visiting the Chicago agency to get a more complete picture.
“They then said hey would keep us in mind for the right opportunities within P&G,” he says, “and sure enough two assignments have come along.”
The Ad Age Small Agency Conference & Awards is the only industry event specifically created for independent shops of fewer than 150 full-time employees. For a chance to get into P&G's elevator and pitch, click here. Tickets are required and can be purchased here.