Consumers are avoiding ads more than ever, so P&G is striking creative partnerships with big names like John Legend and Arianna Huffington

Business Insider | Jun 17, 2019, 06.30AM IST

Marc Pritchard Procter & Gamble Chief Brand Officer

Paul Morigi/Getty Images

P&G chief brand officer Marc Pritchard.

  • Proctor & Gamble is increasing its focus on nontraditional advertising with partnerships involving journalism, filmmaking, music, comedy, and technology.
  • The world's second-largest advertiser at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity this week will announce new pacts with John Legend, Arianna Huffington, and others.
  • P&G has become disillusioned with platforms like Google and Facebook and is looking for new ways to reach consumers while taking a stand on cultural issues.
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People are avoiding ads more than ever, by cutting the cable cord and using online ad blockers, so Proctor & Gamble is increasing its focus on nontraditional advertising.

The world's No. 2 advertiser will use the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity this week to announce projects involving creative fields including journalism, filmmaking, music, comedy, and technology to take stands on cultural issues champion issues like equality and inclusion.

"The ad world has been isolated for too long, and there's much greater creativity to be achieved when you merge these different worlds," P&G marketing chief Marc Pritchard told Business Insider in an exclusive interview ahead of the Cannes festival. "Working with people who share your values, and desire to be a force for good, creates another level of creativity and humanity."

P&G is partnering with John Legend and Arianna Huffington

Its partnership with singer John Legend, P&G will delve into themes like parenthood, modern masculinity, music and social justice to promote brands including Pampers and Gillette. With Arianna Huffington's Thrive Global, it'll focus on healthy habits to promote brands like Oral-B, Crest, Pampers, Venus, Secret, and Pantene.

There's also a film tackling racial bias in America with the creative collective "Saturday Morning," which is similar to "The Talk," a film that P&G sponsored last year. P&G also will relaunch the non-profit "Free the Bid" initiative that advocates for equal opportunities for women directors and creatives in advertising.

These initiatives follow tie-ups with Katie Couric Media, a docu-series with National Geographic, and two short films it sponsored with Queen Latifah's Queen Collective initiative at the Tribeca Film Festival this April.

Pritchard has taken the position that companies need to be a force for good as well as growth and that the company will increase its ad spending on platforms that are more like publishers and broadcasters. He said that P&G had become disillusioned with platforms like Facebook and Google and wanted to try new ways of reaching consumers.

Read More: 'Not good enough': P&G chief brand officer Marc Pritchard tightens the noose on Facebook, YouTube and Twitter, demanding more quality and brand safety from platforms

"There's still some real content quality issues in digital media, and while they're working hard to try and fix them, there are other sources of creativity and media," he said.

Consumers are rewarding brands that champion causes

Brands have long used celebrity spokespeople and entertainment formats that don't just look like another ad. Kellogg's, MAC Cosmetics and Kleenex, for example, have made branded documentaries in recent years.

But Pritchard says P&G's approach is different because it's getting partners like Legend involved in the process from the start and focusing on issues that consumers care about. Research has found people are more likely to buy products from companies that stand for something.

Diving into cultural issue also can be risky for brands; Gillette itself got backlash from an ad campaign that aligned itself with the #MeToo issue.

Non-traditional advertising accounts for barely 5% of P&G's media budget, but its brands that have tackled societal issues in their campaigns, like Tide, Olay and SK-II are experiencing double-digit growth, Pritchard said.

"The reality is that there is a business case," said Pritchard. "When you do these things, it does positively affect the business and growth."

P&G is also evolving its approach to where it distributes its messages. It's begun dabbling in over-the-top streaming channels; its two Queen Collective documentaries streamed only on Hulu.

"It's still fairly small, but it's starting to grow pretty exponentially," he said.

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