Marc Pritchard at CES 2020.
Marc Pritchard, Procter & Gamble’s high-profile chief brand officer, on Wednesday emphasized his company's commitment to social justice causes, and also took some swipes at TV upfronts and social networks’ problems in policing themselves.
“Social media is about 5% of P&G marketing spending, but it’s 150% of our problems. We’re tired of wasting time monitoring bad content,” he said. “It’s time for the platforms to get on with it.”
As for the network’s upfronts, which he’s blasted regularly lately, Pritchard said the problem is that the upfronts, controlled by a small cluster of content providers, may have a role in keeping down other smaller media companies, including minority programmers.
“We’re doing our part to level the playing field at P&G,” he told the virtual audience for the Association of National Advertisers Masters of Marketing conference, which runs through Friday. “We’re rejecting the antiquated network upfront system which provides sellers with more information than buyers, on [the networks’] timing. Instead, we’re negotiating with as many TV broadcasters as possible, on flexible timing that is right for our business.”
He continued, “In digital we’re investing in cross-platform measurement so we can transparently compare and make media choices across all platform -- broadcasters and publishers -- and to help eliminate excess ad frequency that annoys consumers and wastes money. And we’re shifting more money to programmatic because we don’t want to be dependent on just a few players.”
While those objectives might have been pursued even without putting them in a social welfare context, Pritchard made the link. “This levels the playing field among thousands of media companies -- including many Black, Hispanic, Asian, Native American-owned media providers that exist today, enabling more to participate and compete in effectiveness and value.”
As for Procter & Gamble’s issues with social media, he talked about a recent meeting he and ANA executives had with leaders of those platforms to survey the problems.
“Let’s be honest,” he said. “While this review helps, it’s astonishing we’re still having this conversation…Thirty years into the internet age, with $300 billion of media spending monetized, we’re still working with very few boundaries beyond those that are self imposed or that marketers try to enforce.
“Can we self-regulate? Yes. But is that where marketers want to spend their time? No.”
The bulk of Pritchard’s address wasn't about those nuts-and-bolts of the ad business, but on the responsibility of brands to play a major role in social causes, especially racial, social and sexual equality issues that have come into hard focus this year.
Pritchard said, “Some say the system is broken. It isn’t. It was built for the majority” -- but, he implied, that’s no longer a viable concept.
He interspersed his speech with showings of three of P&G’s most talked-about ads: “The Talk,” about the conversations many Black parents have with their kids on how to react to racist acts; “The Look,” which similarly showed how Black men are often mistrusted in ordinary day-to-day events like shopping; and “The Choice,” about Americans’ need to confront racism.
“It’s now inescapably clear that as brands and companies, we have a to step up both as a force for good and force for growth,” he said.
"Being a force for good without growth is philanthropy. There’s nothing wrong with philanthropy, but most of us are accountable to shareholders," he said. "On the other hand, being a force for growth without doing any good for society is increasingly seen by consumers as mercenary. So doing good has to also lead to growth.”