The Long Plan: A Conversation With Retired P&G Media Chief Gerry D'Angelo

After decades as a top media officer of some of the world's biggest global marketers, Gerry D'Angelo retired as Procter & Gamble's global media chief earlier this year, and has since taken on a role advising the rest of the supply chain, including McKinsey & Co., VidMob, and effective this week, ShowHeroes Group, with others to be announced soon. On the subject of advice, we asked D'Angelo to offer some to planners and buyers trying to navigate the rapidly shifting media marketplace.

MediaPost: After overseeing media for more than 30 years at some of the world’s largest brands, what is the No. 1 insight or epiphany you can share with our readers?

Gerry D’Angelo: If I look back at my career, the one thing that resonates for me is that you need to have an ability to see the long-term. The more you get stuck in the weeds on day-to-day stuff, the less you are able to have a long-term view and spot things coming down the track.



A good example for me, is I remember first encountering Facebook and I remember thinking, “This is going to be a big deal.” Not just for the industry, but societally. And so, I remember making a conscious decision to try and get close to that in some way.

I think you have to keep an elongated mind and make sure you’ve got enough long-term visibility, so that when these opportunities do come along, you are ready to do that.

MediaPost: You talk about the importance of having the long view in order to envision the future, but the marketing industry has been shifting to shorter and shorter views, like the shift from long-term brand-building to short-term performance KPIs. And the new rise in retail media is another push in that direction. Is that a paradox?

D’Angelo: For me, it’s not, because you need to continue to do long-term brand-building for you to get short-term spikes. Otherwise, you just flat line. If you’re doing long-term brand-building, your spikes will get further up.

And for me, I found that for the latter half of my career there was a lot more rigorous academic and empirical research to support that. Whereas when I started, it felt like it was a bit more of an intuitive profession.

I’ve spent a lot of time trying to push back on the short-term of performance marketing and multitouch attribution and other things.

MediaPost: Do you worry now that we’re on the cusp of a new era of generative AI and whatever comes after that, that there will be more of a compunction to go even shorter term, because of the speed of thought?

D’Angelo: I am worried about many things related to generative AI, but that hasn’t been one of them. I think you need to be able to ask good questions and I don’t think most people are asking enough sufficiently good questions at the moment. I think things like generative AI whether it is something innovative of mundane, you need to ask yourself some fairly basic questions if you’re going to put prompts into whatever generative AI you’re using. So experiment. Use it as a sandbox.

MediaPost: I’ve been toying with a column about the implications of “synthetic media planning.” As we enter a world in which AI is grabbing all this information and synthesizing it and putting it together in an artificial way that may be a new creative way of thinking about something, but it can also be hallucinogenic or  just plain wrong. Do you have any thoughts on what it means to shift from an era of very humanistic, gut thinking in the beginning of your career to one that is synthetic?

D’Angelo: I would be less concerned with the synthetic nature of it, because there’s already a lot of AI being used in many processes with media. What worries me, is losing sight of how decisions are being made. And then losing sight of the transparency of the end product.

When I saw the ANA report that talked heavily about MFAs [made-for-advertising websites], one of the numbers that struck me was that the average campaign in that study was 44,000 URLs. And no human can check that. No one is going to click on all those URLs and see if it’s an MFA. In the old days, we would buy the newspaper and we’d have a tear sheet. Or we would have a broadcast certificate or a log file. I think we’ve lost that ability now. I’m not worried about he data piece or the automation piece, but what’s happened is that there’s been this explosion of the end product. And if you can’t really see it, you can’t really check it. And that’s only going to get worse now with a lot of the AI-related products.

MediaPost: One of the ironic takeaways of the ANA’s first report was that people need to roll up their sleeves and start drilling into log files, which are the digital equivalent of a tear sheet today, but who could possibly go through all those log files? You need technology to help you with that.

D’Angelo: You absolutely do. My takeaway was the mindset shift from “exclusion” to “inclusion.” And I thought that was really powerful, because once you open the fire hydrant, trying to stem that volume is really hard. Nobody really wants 44,000 or domains on their campaigns. Nobody in their right mind would choose that manually.

MediaPost: You mentioned the anecdote about the epiphany you had when you saw Facebook for the first time. Is there anything you’re looking at that sparks the same sense for you now?

D’Angelo: I think sustainability does. In Europe in particular, but very soon to come in the U.S., the sustainability piece is going to be like rocket fuel. People have figured out that media, and in particular, digital media and programmatic, are heavily carbon emission generative. And those two things have come together quite rapidly in the last 12 to 15 months. People have rushed into that space and you’ve got holding companies developing or white-labeling products and coming up with solutions like supply chain optimization by reducing the number of hops in the supply path, programmatically. Or asset compression is another area. There are come other quick fixes such as targeting people who are accessible only through Wi-Fi and not through 3, or 4 or 5G. Or by time of day.

MediaPost: During my years covering advertising and media-buying, this theme has risen and disappeared over and over again. There were big pushes for environmental marketing, or “Green Marketing,” that ultimately evaporated. It seems to me like that ad industry has a hard time sustaining important themes. Last year was the metaverse. This year is AI. And yes, sustainability and ESG and even DEI have been big themes in recent years. How does the ad industry sustain these important themes when the news cycle changes so rapidly?

D’Angelo: I’ll use the ANA report as an example here. MFAs generally are a bad thing and not a good consumer experience and not good for advertisers, because they’re siphoning money away. And when they took out MFAs, campaign performance went up. I saw someone give a presentation in Europe about carbon emissions and they were saying if you do all these things and you reduce carbon emissions, then your campaign performance goes up.

And those two things – the MFA report or the viewability piece or the carbon emissions piece – the more you can push out these extraneous things from your activity, which aren’t really helping you drive performance, what’s left works harder.

I think of all of them as an “and” in service of campaign performance, and ultimately growing a business, and growing it very profitably.

MediaPost: Is there any last piece of advice you can offer planners – whether they’re inside agencies or marketers – that can help them prepare for the next near future that we’re talking about?

D’Angelo: Anyone who is working on media has to get into the mindset of media as driver of growth. And for a long, long time – probably starting around 15 years ago – there was a real trend toward seeing media as a cost to be minimized and that efficiency was paramount. I think that ended up creating a lot of unintended consequences. It had an impact on talent, with agencies in particular. I think it had an impact on many of the quality issues we’ve been talking about. That chase to the bottom for cheaper and cheaper CPMs was a real problem. And the more successful companies now say media is a driver of growth for their business.

And so for anyone in the business now, I would say the more you can do that, the more seriously you’ll be taken and the more effective you’ll be in your current role.

3 comments about "The Long Plan: A Conversation With Retired P&G Media Chief Gerry D'Angelo".
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  1. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, October 11, 2023 at 8:59 a.m.

    Gerry makes some very important points, Joe, especially about long term thinking and the fixation  with CPMs in media buying. While he says that successful advertisers are now changing their outlook on the latter I see very little evidence that this is the case---rather than a hope which I, too, share. For example, how is it that the CPM dominated TV upfront  persists? And why is there no meaningful advertiser support---or funding---for the inclusion of attentiveness as a standard part of TV "audience" measurement? I wish you had asked him about attentiveness as it applies to TV time buying and what P&G was doing  about that.

  2. Tony Jarvis from Olympic Media Consultancy, October 16, 2023 at 5:20 p.m.

    CPM of course stands for "Completley Positively Mad" especially, per Ed, when it is based on "viewable impressions" more appropriately called content-renderd-counts, i.e., traffic or circulation metrics rather than persons-based Eyes/Ears-On measurement or real target group exposure.  Of note and seemingly contrary to Gerry's understanding, device-based content rendered data is being independently verifiied for campaign creative proof-of-play, proof-of-posting (and proof-of-printing) as related to agency buy specifications for the thousands digital ads "correctly" rendered (or otherwise!) by one of our clients, TRACE Research Technologies, in the OOH space (digital and classic) along with other companies focussed in the digital on-line/streaming arena. 
    As someone that was priviledged to work with P&G when at Mediacom and to echo Ed and John Grono in OZ, that advertisers have not embraced CPM's based on at least Eyes/Ears-On, a minimum performance requirement for any medium to generate a brand outcome, is bizarre.  Per Gerry it has apparently become a race to "erehwon"!!

  3. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, October 16, 2023 at 7:02 p.m.

    To be fair, Tony, I don't blame Gerry on this score as it's painfuly clear that the marketing people at P&G as well as most other companies, don't care all that much how TV audiences are measured. It's not just a matter of studied indifference. Rather, it reflects their thinking about how TV adcampaigns work. Or putting it differently, how important brand positioning and creative execution of their commercials are relative to the media numbers chomping game that the planners and, especially, the buyers and  sellers play. In the marketing peoples' minds "creative"is just about the whole ball game and, not surprisingly, the agency big wigs follow in step----why shouldn't they? At P&G Gerry's "clients" are the CMOs and the brand managers, just as to the media planning/buing agencies "he" was their "client".  So the fault---if there is one---- is not Gerry's its a functionof the ongoing disconnect between "ceative' and media at the agencies, which, in turn, is the result of how the advertisers, themselves, continue to think. Just my two cents, btw.

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