7 Ads That Pulled P&G Out of the Content ‘Crap Trap’

Brand chief Marc Pritchard talks raising the bar on creativity

Headshot of Christine Birkner

In the not-so-distant past, Procter & Gamble once produced massive amounts of unfocused branded content, often to laughable results, like a 10-minute video of a boy raised by goats for Pepto-Bismol and social media posts with chipmunks for Always. P&G's chief brand officer Marc Pritchard, speaking at the ANA Masters of Marketing Conference in Orlando today, was more blunt: "We fell into a content crap trap," he said.

"In our quest to do dynamic, real-time marketing in the digital age, we were producing thousands of new ads, posts, and tweets because we thought the best way to cut through the clutter was to create more ads," Pritchard explained. "Advertising has a bad reputation, which is why people are trying to rename it 'content.' It makes sense, because much of what we express as content belongs in a box and should never be opened again."

He added that the creative challenge for all brands is to focus on craft, versus crap. "People are voting with their fingertips: they're saying that too much of our advertising is uninteresting, uninspiring and therefore ineffective," he said.

"We're spending too much of our time on measurement versus quality. We're caught up in measurement debates while consumers are blocking our ads. Measurement isn't going to make crappy advertising better."

P&G's focus on craft began with giving its brands more personality and points of view, and occasionally using advertising to weigh in on social issues.

"We eventually decided to stop the noise, step up our game, and give consumers the experience they deserve," Pritchard said. "We made a choice to raise the bar on creativity, and that's the key to our market growth."

Pritchard cited these seven ads as examples P&G's new approach, which has helped increase market share, sales and profits for each of the brands featured.

1. Gillette: "Go Ask Dad." Most teenagers search the internet to find instructions for tasks like tying a tie, shaving or asking a girl out, but these videos showed how powerful getting your father's advice in person can be.

2. Pantene: "Strong is Beautiful." NFL players styled their daughters' hair in these spots showing the importance of a dad's influence in a young girl's life.

3. Ariel: "#ShareTheLoad." P&G's detergent brand in India took on generational gender bias towards doing the laundry, urging more men to pitch in.

4. Always: "Like a Girl." As a result of these spots, 76 percent of women and girls now view 'like a girl' as a positive expression, versus 19 percent who did before, according to Pritchard.

5. SK-II: "#ChangeDestiny." These ads for P&G's Chinese skin care brand focused on changing parents' opinions of so-called "leftover women," unmarried Chinese women who are often mocked for being single past the age of 25.

6. Secret: "Stress Test." These ads powerfully addressed the gender pay gap.

7. P&G: "Thank You, Mom." "Behind every mom, there's a company of brands that understands them and thanks them for the strength they bring to their children every day," Pritchard said of this long-running series of ads.

@ChristineBirkne christine.birkner@adweek.com Christine Birkner is a Chicago-based freelance writer who covers marketing and advertising.