P&G’s Marc Pritchard on protecting brands against the threat of ‘mass disruption’

Cannes Lions 2018: Marketing still matters in a world of mass disruption, says P&G’s chief brand officer, it just means working smarter, cutting out waste and becoming more equal.

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“Mass disruption” is the biggest challenge facing the marketing industry today, according to Procter & Gamble’s chief brand officer Marc Pritchard.

From ongoing digital transparency issues and the rise of ad blockers to the emergence of direct-to-consumer startups taking on big brands, the marketing landscape is changing considerably so brands must “completely reinvent” in order survive.

“[Marketing] is being disrupted and it’s being disrupted in a big way. That’s why we call it mass disruption. Mass marketing is being disrupted and it’s being disrupted on a mass scale, so the focus and the challenge we have is how to reinvent, how to build our brands really fast,” he said, speaking at an event hosted by The Economist today (19 June) at Cannes Lions.

“We’re reinventing media from mass blast to mass one-to-one, we’re getting advertising from less push to more pull, we’re reinventing agency partnerships from less outsourcing to more of our people’s hands on the keyboard. We’re reinventing marketing to be a force for good and a force for growth.”

To address this disruption, last year P&G committed to reassessing its digital spend, cutting investment in 2017 across the major digital platforms by $200m.

Pritchard explained that P&G has not increased traditional media spend as a result, rather it has cut back on what he describes as “digital media waste” on the big platforms, which came to light as P&G gained greater transparency.

The knowledge that customers were viewing ads for less than 1.7 seconds, or that ads were being served to bots, spurred the FMCG giant to “take control of the situation” and “get smarter”.

This process has involved harnessing the anonomised data it holds on 80% of consumers in markets such as the US and China to create campaigns with mass reach, but one-to-one precision. In China alone, P&G has cut 30% of the waste across digital media and increased reach by 60%.

Confectionery company Mars currently spends 30-35% of its budget on digital media, a figure chief marketing and customer officer Andrew Clarke expects to increase once these platforms prove they can deliver.

Clarke, who will take on the role of global president of Mars Wrigley Confectionery in September, highlighted the importance of having money ring-fenced in the local market to test on new platforms. Currently Mars puts 80% of its budget behind proven platforms and content, 15% to test out what’s possible in the future based on clear metrics and the other 5% is “just out there”.

Despite the disruption, Clarke believes there has never been a more exciting time to be a marketer, although the challenge is keeping the organisation calm and focused on what’s really going to make a difference.

What could make the difference is hiring the right people, which fellow panellist Mastercard CMO Raja Rajamannar believes is becoming harder in the current climate.

“If you look at the technology budgets for many CMOs, it’s more than that of many chief technology officers, so as a marketer you need to understand technology,” he argued.

“Secondly, as a marketer you need to understand data, while totally being aware of and conscious of consumer privacy. You need data to really do precision marketing. At the end of the day you’re not doing marketing for marketing’s sake.”

Rajamannar argues that finding marketers who understand all these aspects and still want to work in a company considered to be “traditional” is a big challenge. The Mastercard CMO points to a failure in the curriculum at different universities to arm young marketers with the right skills.

“It is so archaic. What they are teaching and the marketing grounding that’s being imparted to them is not what life is like today,” he added.

READ MORE: Marketing’s looming crisis – Why the industry must work harder to attract the next generation

The #MeToo effect

Gender equality and the portrayal of women in advertising were also big topics up for discussion at this, the first Cannes Lions Festival since the rise of the #MeToo movement.

Pritchard pointed to research from the Association of National Advertisers’ #SeeHer project, which found that 20% of the 40,000 adverts it analysed portrayed women inaccurately, either through stereotyping, objectification or diminished character. This research encourages him to believe that the old adage ‘sex sells’ is an outdated concept in 2018.

“I don’t think sex sells. I think it might be just the opposite, because these are negative and inaccurate portrayals,” he explained.

“There’s a business case for equality. If you just take the pay gap, women are paid 20% less than men for exactly the same job, it’s outrageous. If we close that gap McKinsey estimates that will add $28tn to the world economy, that’s purchasing power. That’s good for growth. Advertising that is more gender equal has a 10% increase in trust rating and a 26% increase in sales growth.”

The equalising project starts from within. Currently 45% of managers at P&G are women, with the ambition to reach 50%. Pritchard stated his aim to see more women at vice president and above levels, explaining that P&G is around 10 directors away from a 50/50 split. Some 58% of marketers and 43% of the directors in marketing at P&G are women.

The insight that women make more than 80% of all purchase decisions worldwide inspired Mastercard to take its quota of women working in marketing to 80%. Five years since setting this goal 75% of all people in marketing and communications at the company are women – not just at a junior level, but among the CMO’s direct reports.

A similar situation is playing out at Mars, where 42% of managers in the global business are female and three of the six CMOs are women. Clarke credits #MeToo with putting a “healthy dose of petrol” on the flames and igniting an even greater focus across the industry on diversity and inclusion.

Read all  of Marketing Week’s Cannes Lions 2018 coverage, sponsored by MiQ, here.  

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