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​P&G's Marc Pritchard: 'Some say the system is broken. It is not, it was built that way'

marc Queen Latifah, Haley Anderson, Marc Pritchard and Brittany Fennel

Chimpanzees are just an example. Procter & Gamble's Chief Brand Officer Marc Pritchard hosts a meeting with the famous British primatologist Jane Goodall, known for her studies of social interactions of wild chimpanzees. They agree on the importance of environmental sustainability. 'We promise to do our part and strive to make the world a better place,' Pritchard says.


Let's be clear: P&G is a commercial company. They need to make profits, they want to have growth. But there is a change going on. "We have always strived to take action as a company to do good, but in 2022 we find ourselves at a time where we really need to think differently about the problems of the earth like climate, water waste and nature protection. We want to learn more about what's needed to drive the change we need," Pritchard states during his conversation with Goodall.

The changes companies are facing not only relate to sustainability, but also to inclusion and equality. "Brands have an increasing role as a force for good in society and as a force for growth in business," Pritchard said during an online event when he was named WFA Global Marketer of the Year. "We are more urgently addressing economic inequities across the marketing ecosystem. (…) We want to make a force for good, for diversity, equality, inclusion and a sustainable way of doing business."

Equal representation increases brand trust
He highlights some of the campaigns for P&G brands. The 'Share The Load' campaign for Ariel helps change mindsets about men and boys doing household chores like laundry. Pampers shows parents equally raising children. Gillette modernized its take on masculinity, against sexual harassment, and although some people objected to the campaign, in the end the brand gained many new users, especially millennials.

Inclusion and equal representation benefit the brands. "Research indicates that accurate gender portrayal leads to an increase in brand trust and purchase, which is good for growth. We are taking the same steps on race and ethnicity. We are working with our brands and agencies so they can increase representation of all groups in our ads. (…) As one of the world's largest advertisers we have a responsibility to accurately portray all people in all advertising regardless of gender, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, body type or age. We hold ourselves accountable by regularly testing ads."

The crews behind the camera
Inclusion starts with the teams that are designing and producing the ad campaigns. "To deliver representative and accurate portrayals we need quality behind the camera. We commit to achieve equal representation in the creative and media supply chain, that includes marketers, agencies and production crews. We want to have equal gender representation - 50% women, 50% men - and representation of race and ethnicity equal to the population in each country." The goal is to develop "a fully inclusive industry, where everyone feels they belong," as Pritchard says in MediaVillage.com.

Marketing agencies have creative and economic reasons to strive for diversity. "Equality and inclusion lead to greater creativity and innovation. It leads to purchasing power which leads to market growth. We are making solid progress, but we still have more to do. The most significant intervention is on directors and production crews behind the camera. Relevant stories we tell can only happen if the storytellers represent the people we serve."

Widen the Screen: inclusion of black creators
In marketing agencies in the western world inclusion has a long way to go. It is estimated that fewer than 5% of all directors are people of color. "Some say the system is broken. It is not, it was built that way. We need to disrupt and dismantle the system and rebuild a new one," Pritchard argues during the WFA event. To increase equal participation P&G has launched the platform 'Widen the Screen'. It is a content creation, talent development and partnership platform to increase inclusion of black creators across the advertising, film and media industry. "It is aimed at the accurate portrayal and increasing representation by providing access and opportunity to break into an industry that is notoriously difficult to enter. Our immediate focus is on black creators with a possible future expansion to other groups."

The Widen the Screen initiative has led to films that challenge biased expectations. "It is founded on a call to action to widen our view by portraying a full view of the joy, beauty and vastness of black life and not reinforcing commonly held stereotypes. In addition to widening the screen, to widen our view, we want to widen opportunities for black creators. (…) We aim to be the leading advertiser in black owned and operated media."

Brands helping consumers achieve sustainability
In another presentation at Signal 360 Pritchard elaborates on innovations and sustainability within the company. "One of the biggest opportunities for us is how we can help consumers do their part. We are shifting our innovation program toward irresistibly superior products and a way of delivering them in an environmentally sustainable way. For instance, superior cleaning for laundry with less energy and water use. Beauty products with less packaging waste. We devoted leadership meetings to case studies where we created superior performing products with less waste and energy use. It is focused on the consumer and the problem to be solved. You can think about it in two ways: one is the core cleaning, health and hygiene job to be done from a benefit standpoint, and two is how you reduce energy, water and waste from a sustainability standpoint."

Other innovations reflect a growing emphasis on a digital approach. "One of the changes we have seen is how people shop and learn to operate in a virtual world or hybrid environment. People got accustomed to buying a lot of products online and our retailers changed their approaches, so they gave customers options. Apps that are helping people be able to make their selections. That is going to have a profound effect on how we will build our brands in the future."

Virtual worlds: creativity is the driving force
In Campaign magazine Pritchard points to the expansion of virtual worlds. Gaming is an area P&G is "just jumping into in a big way". But despite all the changes the foundation remains creativity. "Creativity is what drives businesses, what drives brands. The best way to deal with disruption is to lead it and do it in a constructive way that builds markets and that is where innovation and creativity comes in. Then we focus on what consumers want, and figure out ways to bring things in a much more creative way."

In conclusion, brands must be a force for both growth and good. In the field of marketing and inclusion there has been progress, but Pritchard is aware that much remains to be done. "It is not just our advertising, it is the whole creative and media supply chain, marketing agencies, people behind the camera. We need to keep stepping forward to make the difference that this industry can make."

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