There were more than a handful of worthy candidates considered by MediaPost editors for this year’s Executive of the Year honors.
It’s hard to argue, for example, that a newcomer to the media owner space — Elon Musk — didn’t have significant impact on the industry this year. Many would argue that it was negative impact. It was certainly disruptive.
Impact, innovation, vision and media industry leadership are the KPIs that guide us in our selection of the award recipient.
This year’s honoree is Marc Pritchard, chief brand officer, Procter & Gamble.
Pritchard was chosen for his ongoing focus on diversity and inclusion and for his calls for fundamental changes in the media buying and selling process -- which include eliminating audience guarantees and makegood ads and his recent declaration that the industry should abandon general-market media targeting.
Pritchard is a 40-year veteran of P&G -- the world’s largest advertiser with ad-related expenses of $8.2 billion in 2021, according to the company’s annual report for that year.
He has been in his current role since 2014. He has been building brands at the company for most of his career.
Pritchard was named Global Marketing Officer in 2008 and Global Brand Building Officer in 2009.
He has been lauded with some of the industry’s most prestigious awards, including being honored by Cannes Lions as the Marketer of the Decade in 2020. That year he was also named Marketer of the Year by the World Federation of Advertisers.
In 2022, he entered the American Marketing Association Hall of Fame and was awarded the National Association of Black Owned Broadcasters Corporate Impact Award.
In October at the ANA’s Masters Of Marketing Conference, Pritchard outlined his vision for a better way of marketing by doing away with what he called the “habitual mindset that there is a general market.”
There is no “average consumer,” Pritchard said. “We live in a diverse country with many cultures,” and people within those cultures “expect brands to meet their unique needs with products and marketing developed precisely for what they want, need and deserve.”
The better alternative, Pritchard said, is to “build multicultural marketing into the fabric of everyday marketing.” Multicultural marketing, he stressed, “IS mainstream marketing.”
By extension, the industry’s approach to market research needs to shift as well to a more inclusive model. And that means a shift away from the so-called “representative base” that is skewed to white demographics that underrepresent, well, everybody else.
He cited one example in the personal care category — shampoo. For Black women, the cliched marketing mantra, “lather, rinse, repeat,” simply doesn’t ring true.
It “misses what the ‘wash day’ ritual is for Black women — from the number of steps in the process to the types of products she uses, to how she uses them, and how often.”
Breaking the “rep base” research habit, said Pritchard, means going deep into understanding the needs of each individual consumer group. The result: “true insight.” And it has led P&G to develop new lines of hair-care products tailored to the specific needs of Black women.
It’s no secret that minority groups have been underrepresented in ad content. There has been progress, and P&G is helping to lead the way. The company did a recent audit of its ad content and found that overall, P&G brands cast 29% of characters in ads with Black actors.
But the firm found that other groups including Hispanics, Asian Pacific and Native-Indigenous people are underrepresented. The company is now focused on boosting representation for those groups.
And Pritchard said the company is also more focused on eliminating inaccurate and stereotypical portrayals of characters in ads, which intended targets find off-putting, if not offensive.
Another major issue is a dearth of programming that resonates with Black and other minority audiences. The opportunity is that well-done ads will perform better if placed in programming that highly resonates with the viewer, likely resulting in double-digit increases in sales and overall trust.
P&G has created an internal team to develop partnerships with Black-owned-and-operated media for both programming development and media investment.
But to significantly scale up such investments, Pritchard sees a need for industry-wide consortiums with groups like the Association of National Advertisers, the National Association of Black Owned Broadcasters and others.
On the content front, the company has created a number of initiatives designed to boost the amount of relevant and engaging programming in the market targeted to Black audiences, including an effort called “Widen The Screen.” The program is described as a content-creation, talent development and partnership platform to increase and support Black program creators across the advertising and film media industry.
Separately, Pritchard earlier this year proposed that media sellers eliminate the practice of offering audience guarantees and resulting “makegood” ads when guaranteed audience levels are not met. He called the practice “incredibly inefficient,” in part because audience forecasting “inevitably falls short.”
In today’s ad market, Pritchard asserts there should be a broader effort to “connect media directly to commerce” (one reason for the rapid growth of retail media).
Does he have a specific alternative in mind? Not yet, but he wants to work with sellers to test new approaches.
“It’s time to find a better way,” he told those attending a media conference earlier this year.
And as the largest advertiser globally, it’s a good bet that P&G and its master brand builder will have a big say in that better way.