P&G’s Marc Pritchard slams objections to his attempt to clean up digital

Procter and Gamble’s chief brand officer says myths around digital advertising have distracted marketers from taking action and they must now take control and be prepared “to break some furniture”.

Procter & Gamble’s chief brand officer Marc Pritchard has dismissed objections to his attempts to clean up the digital ad ecosystem, calling out those that might try to justify not adhering to his demands and pointing out what he calls “head fakes” – myths that are standing in the way of digital becoming more transparent and accountable.

In a speech he is set to give at the ANA’s Media Conference 2017 later today (2 March), Pritchard will once again speak about the attempts by his business to clean up the media supply system and improve its digital marketing efforts, which includes getting transparent media contracts, adopting one viewability standard and implementing MRC-accredited third-party measurement verification.

However, this time he will address head on the “myths or false objections” that brands have all followed or accepted, and in turn “have distracted [brands] from action”.

One such myth is around the MRC standard, which says that digital ads should be 50% in view for 2 seconds otherwise advertisers will not be charged, which some have dismissed as “the lowest common denominator”. Pritchard says it is exactly what P&G wants.

“Remember, viewability means the opportunity to see an ad – did it make it onto the screen where human eyes can see it? ‘Opportunity to see’ has been confused with other metrics, including ‘fully viewed’, ‘was recalled’, ‘was effective’, ‘made an impact’, ‘paid attention’, ‘delivered ROI’, and others. It is none of those,” he says.

“A “viewable impression” is indeed a lowest-common-denominator baseline that helps us understand whether the ad even made its way onto a screen where human eyes could see it.”

He goes on to argue that it is no different than the baseline guarantees TV networks, magazines and outdoor ad companies have given advertisers for years.

“Did the TV spot actually get broadcast? Did the ad get placed in the magazine? Did the ad get pasted on that roadside billboard? Those are separate questions from: Was anyone watching TV when my spot ran? How fast did they flip through the magazine? Did any cars drive by my billboard on Wednesday?,” he explains.

It’s not enough until the verification and audits are actually implemented. We’ve been more than patient because we made these requests nearly a year ago.

Marc Pritchard, P&G

Another myth is that digital ad platforms, because they have third-party measurement, do not need MRC audits. In response, Pritchard says that third-party verification is a good step, “but it’s not enough, because even auditors need to get audited”.

“We need an objective, impartial validation that the measurement processes and approaches are done with the highest levels of integrity and quality,” he adds.

He says P&G has been “encouraged” by the recent progress by Facebook and Google, which have promised to increase their focus on transparency and viewability. Nevertheless, he wants more, dismissing their announcements “intention” and “a work in progress”.

“It’s not enough until the verification and audits are actually implemented. We’ve been more than patient because we made these requests nearly a year ago – so we need urgent completion. Because then we can get to the more important work of fully understanding the value we’re getting,” he says.

He also dismisses the idea that ad tech platforms won’t have enough time to adhere to his demands and offers them three priorities: viewability, audience reach and ad frequency. “Give us [those] first – and we’ll go from there,” he adds.

He admits that part of the reason for the issues is that relationships with agencies have become “frayed”, but says that is down to too much complexity and murkiness. And he calls on the indstury to come together to “get more efficient and productive”, and that includes procurement.

“What we’re doing at P&G is looking at every touch and transaction in the supply chain from the time we make a media decision to when the ad actually reaches the consumer – to eliminate waste and losses. That way, we will have more than a contractual relationship. We’ll get back to the true partnership we had with our agencies of the past – a partnership where we are both working together to create joint value – for them, for us, and most important – for consumers,” he explains.

And he says CMOs must step and take responsibility. He admits brands have been shying away from the issues due to the fact that some marketers “aren’t sure what to do”.

He concludes: “I confess that I was in this camp until I started digging into the details, and learned a valuable lesson – media transparency cannot be delegated. The CMO needs to lead and get into the weeds, set the expectations, follow through, and be willing the break some furniture.”