P&G’s Pritchard Says Brands Must Take a Stand on Societal Issues
Brands must take a stand on societal issues, because consumers now expect it, says Marc S. Pritchard, chief brand officer at Procter & Gamble. Considering the words from the public face of the largest advertiser had a sweeping effect last year on digital marketing — directing brands, agencies and vendors alike to clean up their acts — some marketers may see his latest comments as a call to action.
After all, many of the Advertising Week New York attendees in the IMAX theater seats at the Monday afternoon keynote had come specifically to hear what Pritchard had to say. Prior to Pritchard’s talk with fellow keynoter Keith Cartwright and moderator Colleen DeCourcey, a steadily increasing number of brands had been taking stands on political issues that coincided with their values.
But not all have done so. And now’s the time for everyone to step up, because brands are the ones moving conversations about societal issues forward, agreed Pritchard; Cartwright, executive creative director at agency 72andSunny; and DeCourcey, president at agency Wieden and Kennedy.
Seated in white chairs atop bright red carpeting as Cartwright’s film about police shooting unarmed black men played on the movie screen behind them, Pritchard revealed that much of his urgency about brands taking stands is personal.
We're happy and humbled announce that our Peace Briefs won Silver Lion at the 65th Annual @Cannes_Lions Awards Show!
— saturday.morning.co (@saturdaymornco) June 23, 2018
Pritchard, who is Mexican-American, said he came to the realization about marketing’s role in society by looking at his three daughters more than a decade ago, when they were all under age 10. That’s when he decided he had to help change the standard of beauty and the overall tone of advertising. Specifically, P&G’s campaign, “easy, breezy, beautiful, CoverGirl” was, in fact, “too young, too thin and too white,” Pritchard said.
He said the context for his gaze at his daughters was that, at the time, he was visiting a spiritual ranch with them and his wife, and the ranch’s leader had urged him to change marketing and take a stand on the issues.
“What we do in advertising matters,” Pritchard recalls telling his daughters.
As a result of his changed mindset in 2006, Queen Latifah became a CoverGirl.
On Monday, Pritchard said that with today’s turmoil, doing right and doing good are just as personal to consumers as the principles are to him. So he says brands need to make marketing personal — to reflect those beliefs and create a connection with consumers.
“The world is reeling right now,” Cartwright said.
That’s why brands need to heed the call to action, they agreed.
Cartwright’s film he’d shown reflected his personal need to take a stand.
Two years ago, he’d been steadily working with brands on creative at his agency, but he suddenly believed it wasn’t enough. After the deaths of Philando Castile and Eric Garner, he felt moved to create something to make a difference. He wanted that something to show to police when suspects put their hands in the air. So a couple of years ago, he helped start the nonprofit Saturday Morning and “Peace Briefs” were born, displaying on the underwear’s elastic waistband “I’m not armed.”
After Pritchard discovered Cartwright’s work, Pritchard gave him a call and they started collaborating.
Pritchard revealed that the next campaign will be about empathy, involving the black community and police.
A marketing campaign’s power, though, isn’t about how many people accept it, it’s about how true it is, DeCourcey says. Ad Age reports that her agency created the #JustDoIt campaign that former NFL quarterback and protest leader Colin Kaepernick made infamous on Labor Day.
— Colin Kaepernick (@Kaepernick7) September 3, 2018
“The act of bravery belonged to Colin,” DeCourcey says.
She asked Pritchard if bravery always involved discomfort.
“You don’t have to feel uncomfortable, but you do have to feel something,” Pritchard said, adding that he cried about this commercial:
This commercial had Advertising Week attendees crying:
The mother is urging her daughter to celebrate being unique.
Cartwright says people of color and women should stand out, instead of trying to blend in when they’re the only ones like them in the room.
This awareness matters. Pritchard says it creates emotional safety for colleagues in the organization who then reveal what makes them unique.
About when Pritchard announced last year that his paternal grandfather’s surname was Gonzalez, P&G’s marketing became far more diverse.
“I’m half Mexican, but I had never expressed that publicly,” Pritchard said on Monday, adding that his father told him to check off the “white” box on applications so he could get good jobs. “I was privileged.”
That’s why the P&G campaign that really sticks with Pritchard debuted in 2015 — Tide’s “Labels are stains.” Wash them away, he says.
Marketing creative is even more powerful when it comes from brand leaders who are speaking from within, from their own experience, Cartwright says.
“No matter how much you run from your upbringing, it catches up with you,” Cartwright says.
What do you think, marketers?
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