ORLANDO -- While he didn’t call it a bait-and-switch, Procter & Gamble Chief Brand Officer Marc Pritchard took a last-minute "pivot" after reading the room Tuesday as the world’s top marketers gathered for the opening day of the Association of National Advertisers’ annual conference, and substituted an opening keynote about "creativity" with one about a more inclusive approach to advertising and media buying.
Pritchard -- who has been at the forefront of calling for these changes for several years now, and has led P&G's own shift from general-market advertising into campaigns and media strategies targeting explicit cultural, ethnic and racial segments of the consumer marketplace -- acknowledged that he has given similar speeches at a variety of industry media diversity events, but that it was high time he delivered it at the ANA's annual "Masters of Marketing" conference here.
In fact, he called on all marketers to "break the habitual mindset that there is a general market" -- a term and concept that many mass marketers have historically used as an excuse for not explicitly targeting minority audiences -- mainly because they already reach them as part of a "general market."
"It's high time to retire the archaic term 'general market'," he said, adding: "'General' is only two letters different from 'generic.' And our job is to be distinctive, not generic, not average, not homogenous."
Pritchard called on marketers to abandon their general-market orientation in every regard, including consumer research, creative executions, minority representation in ads, and media-buying segmentation -- advocating a big shift from general market media to media targeted explicitly at minority audiences.
In fact, he even called for an end to media plans based solely on national average consumer reach and replace them with ones delivering explicit minority audience reach.
"To reach people with our marketing and ultimately convert them to purchase, we need to break the media reach habit that goes something like this: 'Well Marc, my brand is already reaching Black consumers with our general market media buy. In fact, we're reaching 63% of Black audiences vs. the national average of 60%. We're good.'"
"Well, my question back," he continued, "is why are there market share gaps if you're reaching more than the national average? Why is 63% considered good? Why can't we reach 90% of Black consumers?"
Pritchard implied that P&G has been doing that in their media buys, and showed a variety of campaign executions aimed explicitly at those audiences. He said P&G is not just doing it because it is the right thing to do for diversity, but because it is the right thing to do from a business perspective.
Pritchard ended his keynote explaining that he substituted his presentation after sitting "with hundreds of CMOs and media partners" on Tuesday to discuss the lack of progress the industry has made after 20 years of talking about more diverse consumer marketing and media-buying.
"Someone actually said, 'Why do we even have a Multicultural Conference, right? Why wouldn't that be the [Masters of Marketing] conference," he recalled, explaining that's when he decided, "Let's make a pivot."
Indeed, media strategies targeting explicit cultural, ethnic and racial segments of the consumer marketplace are very important. They also tend to be more targetted, more effective and more efficient.
"It's high time to retire the archaic term 'general market'," he said, adding: "'General' is only two letters different from 'generic.' I wonder if he ever considered that "genital" is also just two letters different and could be vital in some campaigns.
Of course, Marc is right---in theory. But in practice the ideal way to go about this would be to create different commercial executions and, perhaps, positioning strategies, for each segment---and there are lots of segments, not only racial ones. Even here, not all members of a particular race or ethnicity are identical in how they see things, what their needs are, their cultural backgrounds , etc. But what about other ethnicities------people of Italian or Irish or German descent? And going a step beyond that what about varying mindsets--some consumers are extremely price conscious, others care about convenience or self image or health issues, etc. And these overlap with demographies and racial or ethnic groups.
So even if you wanted to take a national ad campaign and tailor its message---and reach----for particular segments you are apt to find that you need to assign varying weights to lots of these segments based on their assumed sales potential, create separate ads for each segment and then find media that slice and dice the consumer market according to your specs. Do that and the problem is one of causing confusion as no matter where you place your selectively targeted ad messages you are going to reach some----even many---who also fall into other groups---with the risk that by saying one thing about your brand in one venue and another about it in a second venue and using a different approach with a third group, you are sowing confusion among all of these duplicated audiences. In short, I agree with Marc but it's not going to be easy----unless you can create a positionning strategy that everybody will respond to and commercials that ring the sales bells wheneven anybody sees them.
A brand shouldn't say different things about your themselves or their product to different audiences. These things should be consistent and sacrosanct. However, you can tailor the "why-buys" by audience or situation. For example, one consumer group my buy your service or widget for one purpose, and another might buy it for another, different purpose ~ or they may not buy it at all, because they don't think it fits their lifestyle. In this example, crossover exposure isn't confusing, it can be reassuring. E.g., if a toothpaste brand tells me in Spanish, that it freshens my breath (because that’s what matters to one audience), but their English advertising tells me it whitens my teeth (because that’s more important to another audience), that doesn’t lead to brand confusion, it gives me TWO reasons to buy that brand.
And yes, you can fall down the rabbit hole of targeting and addressing smaller and smaller audiences and sub-audiences and sub-sub-audiences, but: 1) It's the job of marketers to weigh the audience opportunity and invest accordingly. Since Black and Latino audiences make up 35% of the population, they're simply too substantial to NOT approach them with intentionality. 2) It's also the job of marketers to look for cultural commonalities within a group, so that you CAN be effective marketing to the various Black and Latino subsegments that might exist. (I'm not trying to leave out Asian audiences here, because you have to be more distinct in your approach to each Asian ethnicity) 3) We are inching closer to individual addressable media and creative every day. Many marketers already employ dynamic creative targeted to 1:1 addressable audiences, and should consider including diverse imagery, language and targeting into this tactic.
Marc is correct, of course, however there is the little problem of audience dupliction if you try to tell your brand's story in a very different way to different segments of the consumer public. No matter how finely you try to slice and dice it, there's no way to target particular life cycle, mindset, or other segments on an exclusive basis. A certain proportion of the audience will be exposed to most or all of your messages over time---with confusion the likely result. Also, if you are really serious about this, you need to stop buying upfront TV in a quest for lower CPMs and accept the fact that if each brand is allowed to go it alone they will pay much more per viewer than they are spending now.