P&G, Bupa, Shell: 5 things that mattered this week and why

Catch up on all this week’s marketing news including the reaction to Gillette’s ‘#metoo’ ad, Shell and Jamie Oliver’s tie-up and Bupa’s move to focus its marketing on just five postcodes.

Gillette ‘#metoo’ ad sparks applause and criticism

Gillette’s brand bosses must have known they had something controversial on their hands when they decided to weigh in on the #metoo debate with a short film calling out ‘toxic’ male behaviour and demanding change. They might not have expected it to drum up quite so much debate, however,

Within hours people were split, with some loudly applauding the brand’s decision to tackle such a difficult subject while others vehemently criticised. There were views in between too. Industry execs we’ve spoken to mostly praised the strategy while feeling the execution may have fallen short. The focus on telling men off, rather than showing a positive message about change, didn’t land well with many.

Whether the campaign will negatively impact sales, as our columnist Mark Ritson suggests, only time will tell. Gillette’s owner Procter & Gamble has previous form in using a social purpose to advance a brand and its sales, Always being the obvious example. But Gillette will need to follow this ad up with a real shift in positioning and behaviour if it wants the effects to stick.

Up until now, Gillette’s brand tone couldn’t have been more different from the ‘Best men can be’ spot, previously featuring quite outdated views of men and certainly nothing that could be described as controversial. Authenticity is a word too often bandied around in marketing, but in this case Gillette needs to craft a narrative around this new messaging and bring it to life in its proposition, otherwise the furore will have been for nothing.

READ MORE: Mark Ritson – Gillette’s new ad will trash its sales and be the year’s worst marketing move

Bupa reveals the simple insights that transformed how it saw its customers

London post codesHow many brands think they are selling one thing, when in reality their customers are buying something else?

Until recently, Bupa Global was one of them. The health insurance brand’s international arm started up in 1971 selling policies for expats, and until recently, that’s who it still assumed was buying them. However taking a close look at customer data suggested a new segment had emerged.

Firstly, it worked out 70% of individual sales are made to customers who live in London, and 50% of those are concentrated within an area of west London covering just five postcodes. Secondly, it realised they weren’t tending to use their policies abroad but at home.

“These are not traditional expats,” says Bupa Global marketing director Neil Kirby. “They are people buying the product not for the international piece.”

This has opened up a whole new way of marketing to customers and prospects, who are often high-net-worth individuals looking for a premium health policy covering things like GP visits and maternity care, which are usually excluded from domestic coverage.

Face-to-face sales in a small area of London have now become a key tactic for Bupa Global that is about to be rolled out to other cities. Word-of-mouth referrals have jumped as a result. A sponsorship of the Barbican Art Gallery’s ‘Modern Couples’ exhibition last year also offered the brand a new way to meet and research high-net-worth customers in person.

The case study offers crystal-clear evidence of the commercial value of continually questioning your assumptions about who customers are and how they behave.

READ MORE: Why Bupa overhauled its marketing to focus on just five postcodes

P&G and Arla expand in-house teams

Nearly a year ago, Procter & Gamble’s chief brand officer Marc Pritchard condemned the “archaic mad men model” that saw marketers “steadily outsourcing work to agencies”. He called for more autonomy for brand managers and questioned why marketeers couldn’t also be in charge of creative.

Since then Pritchard has been on a mission to ensure that this idea comes to fruition. Yesterday, AdWeek reported the FMCG giant had created an in-house team for its oral care brands after the success of its own agency Woven for its North America fabric business.

P&G is not the only brand looking to in-house aspects of work it has previously outsourced to agencies. Arla, which owns brands including Lurpak and Anchor, is expanding its in-house creative and media-buying teams.

The internal outfit, dubbed ‘The Barn’, was created at the end of last year and has 18 people covering media, creative development and technology. It currently sits close to the company’s head office in Denmark but there are plans to expand this to the UK and Dubai before the end of 2019.

The question is whether this increasing blend of in-house and agency partnership is the future of media? It’s starting to look that way. A study by the Association of National Advertisers (ANA) found that 78% of its members have some sort of in-house advertising set-up, a rise from 58% in 2013 and from 42% in 2008.

Both P&G and Arla have cited cost efficiency as a major reason for streamlining agencies, with Arla also noting that in the age of 24-hour news and social media there is more pressure on creative to react faster to events.

Neither P&G nor Arla are getting rid of agencies – Arla just announced it will be working with Kamarama – and the future is more likely to be a blend of the two. After all there is a reason the agency model worked so well in the past. With agencies pushing brands outside their comfort zone while brand’s ensure original creatives still stay true to the brand.

There is no doubt that more and more brands will continue to in-house but they should watch being overzealous. Brands should proceed with caution or they risk taking on too much too soon and ruining the process before it has even started.

READ MORE: As P&G in-houses more media should other brands follow suit?

Marketers’ outlook turns pessimistic as Brexit uncertainty bites

The IPA could barely have timed the launch of this quarter’s Bellwether report better given the impact Brexit and economic uncertainty is having on business confidence. In Parliament, MPs were busy voting down Prime Minister Theresa May’s deal and then (just) backing her in a no confidence vote. And in marketers’ offices up and down the country, execs were baulking at the uncertainty.

At the end of a tumultuous week we are no nearer to learning how Brexit may pan out. A second referendum, no deal or a softer Brexit all still seem to be on the table, and that offers little confidence to business.

Too often, marketing spend is one of the first expenses to be cut in difficult economic times and we saw that in the latest Bellwether report. After six years of growth, budgets were expected to be flat last quarter and if the current political malaise continues, growth is expected to fall into negative territory. Marketers are also increasingly pessimistic about their company’s ability to weather the economic storm.

There was some bright news. Investment in jobs is expected to continue as marketers spot opportunities in new markets, products and innovations. But until we have a clearer view of Brexit the signs are marketing will come under pressure.

READ MORE: Six years of marketing budget growth ends as Brexit uncertainty bites

Shell and Jamie Oliver feel the wrath of environment campaigners

When Shell revealed its “exciting” new collaboration with Jamie Oliver it probably wasn’t expecting the reaction it got. Despite his group’s financial difficulties, in PR terms almost everything Oliver touches turns to gold. Shell was probably therefore looking forward to a healthy publicity bump when it unveiled it would be partnering with the chef to launch a range of healthy meals, to be sold in its petrol stations.

Of course that isn’t what happened. There is a huge contradiction in Oliver on the one hand working with Shell to revamp its food offering and on the other campaigning for environmental change. Both Shell and Oliver might try to pretend there’s no cross-over, but the commentary around the deal would suggest the public doesn’t agree.

On Shell’s part it seems a savvy move. Oliver can only help its reputation when people see his name on the packaging in a petrol station. He has come to stand for healthy, wholesome and nutritious food, and lent his name to causes such as improving school meals and the plight of battery hens.

The benefit for the Jamie Oliver brand is less clear cut. His comments that his job is to “work for the British public and push Shell to be the best that we can be and also to disrupt the market” will ring a little hollow. He’s right business needs to be on “the journey” to make food healthier; whether that means partnering with Shell is right for his brand another matter.

READ MORE: Ellen Hammett: Jamie Oliver’s defence of his Shell deal suggests an over-inflated view of the power of his ‘brand’