P&G's Marc Pritchard prefers advertising over content

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The chief marketer of the world's largest packaged goods company tells ANA to focus on quality not quantity

"Advertising" is not a dirty word. While using the word to describe the product of the advertising business has fallen out of fashion in favor of the broader description of content, Marc Pritchard, chief brand officer of Procter & Gamble, "defiantly" embraces the industry moniker and urged the attendees of the ANA Masters of Marketing conference to do the same.

"I proudly use the term 'advertising' to describe our craft, because it's a noble and it's a beautiful craft, and we need to treat it as such," said Pritchard, giving a morning presentation titled "Raising the Bar on Creativity." "Let's face it, advertising has a bad reputation. I guess that's why we've been trying to rename it 'content.'"

While technology is giving marketers a larger creative canvas for their advertising messages, more choices and the ability to create longer pieces of advertising, he said, doesn't necessarily translate to good work. In the race to be everywhere, quality and ultimately effectiveness suffer. "Too often we produce crap," said Pritchard. "Craft or crap, that's our creative challenge. Technology enables both."

Technology has given the industry some exciting new tools, like virtual reality and artificial intelligence, but has also brought some "awful guests to the party," he said. Viewability problems, ad skipping and "some really bad advertising," he said. "It's really no wonder we're seeing ad blocking."

Warning marketers to avoid the "content crap trap," Pritchard admitted P&G has not been immune. As an example, he pointed to P&G's "finest moments all in the name of content," beginning with an online Pepto-Bismol ad about a boy raised by goats.

The point of the ad is if you were raised by goats you'd eat things that would bother your stomach but, he said, "you wouldn't know that until the four-minute ad was nearly over. Pritchard also pointed to some other low points on social media, including posts from Pantene, Always and Oral B that attempted to be bold, but were wrong for the brand. "Why did we do this work," he asked.

Pritchard admitted, like many marketers, P&G was trying to figure out how to best market its products in a multi-screen world. "In our quest to produce dynamic real-time marketing in the digital age, we were producing thousands of new ads, posts, tweets, every week, every month, every year," he said. "I guess we thought the best way to cut through the clutter was to create more ads. All we were doing was adding to the noise."

The company changed its approach, he said, making a choice to raise the creative bar in order to "give consumers the marketing they deserve." The company focused on three things: expressing the brand on a creative canvas, elevating the craft and embracing creativity as a human endeavor.

At the center of what he described as "the brand masterpiece on a creative canvas" is advertising born out of an "authentic idea that uniquely finds and delivers advertising that expresses the essence of the brand," he said.

Brands should be daring in their quest for fresh ideas and also not be afraid to express a point of view on culturally-relative matters. Pritchard showcased the company's creative successes, including campaigns that celebrated gender equality, including Always, "Like A Girl," Secret, "Flip the Script" and Ariel "Share the Load." He also shared work from Pantene, Tide and P&G's long-running corporate campaign saluting mothers, "Thank You, Mom." Each of those examples, he said, were rooted in the product.

These days, he added, too much emphasis is placed on data, rather than quality. "Measurement is not going to make crappy advertising better," he said.

Creative excellence breeds market success, he concluded, urging the audience to collectively "raise the bar," and create the work that brings the best out of everyone.

Either marketers can allow the vast array of technology to erode the quality of the product or it can leverage it into an opportunity with craft. "All of us in the marketing community have a choice and can set standards for the industry for years to come," he said.

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