7 Takeaways From Adweek’s Conversation With P&G Chief Brand Officer Marc Pritchard

He talks industry trends, influencer fraud and more

Marc Pritchard of P&G. Getty Images
Headshot of Diana Pearl

As the chief brand officer of Procter & Gamble, the world’s largest advertiser with a reported ad spend of over $10 billion, you might say Marc Pritchard is the most powerful person in marketing. And at October’s ANA Masters of Marketing conference in Orlando, Fla., he sat down with Adweek to talk about industry trends, in-house agencies, influencer fraud and yes, the Super Bowl, among other topics. The seven biggest takeaways from that conversation are below.

In influencer marketing, the discussion can’t start and end with the influencer in question

Influencer marketing starts with a conversation—but when it’s effective, that conversation keeps going beyond the influencer’s followers, extending into more personal, word-of-mouth-based chatter.

“People need to talk about it, not just influencers, because influencers are a piece,” he said. “They only have so much following, so you have got to get other people that are involved in it.” To do that, Pritchard said, a campaign needs to be compelling enough to get that talk going.

“It’s a conversation that people want to be a part of and that’s what all this stuff is built upon,” he said. “You have to have a great idea and the idea has to be something worth talking about that’s relevant. It has to have something to do with the brand.”

P&G isn’t heavily investing in customization—yet

Though Gillette just rolled out customizable razors, Pritchard said P&G won’t be diving headfirst into the customizable trend just yet. Replicating that custom treatment for a product like shampoo is more difficult, which is the largest reason for this hesitancy.

“It really depends more on the product than anything else,” he said.

Advertising will continue to diversify, as well as be more intentional

Ten years ago, the vast majority of P&G’s advertising spend was on mass market television. But over the past decade, more and more channels have developed and the company is now investing its marketing budgets in a variety of places.

“Now, there are so many ways to get people to turn toward your brand,” said Pritchard. The industry is also moving away from what he calls the “spray and pray” method—where you blast out advertising in every direction and just hope it sticks with the consumer, and instead tries to make sure, as best they can, that their marketing resonates with the right audiences.

And though they’ve broadened their reach, P&G continues to invest heavily in those more traditional methods, because “that’s still important, especially for our products,” he said. “People still brush their teeth, wash their hair, shave and do their laundry every day, so we need to reach a lot of people.”

Still, he admits that sort of advertising alone won’t cut it, because of how many paths to engagement exist today.

Brands need to align themselves with a purpose

Brand purpose was one of the buzziest phrases at this year’s ANA event, and Pritchard echoed the sentiments around it when speaking with Adweek. Taking a stand or aligning your brand with a cause is increasingly becoming a mandate, not an option, in modern marketing.

“There are more and more brands that are expressing points of view on things because consumers are looking for a brand’s point of view,” he said.

Across P&G’s brands, Pritchard said the team has been working with several different causes, from sustainability with Secret and Pampers to gender equality. These issues are chosen not only because they’re ones that resonate with customers, but that they’re ones that feel natural to the brand in question. “That’s one of the reasons why we do so much with gender equality,” he said. “That’s a topic that we feel that we should have a point of view on.”

Creatives are top priority when it comes to agency relationships

“I always really want to make sure that I know who the creatives are,” said Pritchard of his approach to working with agencies. “Creatives are really who matter most.”

That means learning who they are, more about their past experiences and how they think, but it’s also about determining how insightful they are.

“That’s a pretty big part of what creativity is about, really getting deep human insights and transforming that into something that can connect with people,” he said.

The Super Bowl could get political—or it could stay away

Though Pritchard declined to share what (and if) P&G is cooking up for the Super Bowl this year, he did predict that the general vibe of the advertisements will either speak to the times we’re living in or completely ignore it.

“There’s usually there’s some kind of cultural bent to these things, but for all I know, it might actually be just the opposite,” he said. “That might be, let’s just feel good again and put some sunshine on everything.”

Ads aren’t going away, but they are changing

As consumers’ attitudes towards advertising become less and less welcome, Pritchard said marketers are starting to anticipate how to market in a world without ads. Though he doesn’t think traditional ads will ever truly disappear, marketers have to pay attention to the fact that consumers are increasingly irritated with ads, and want to engage with brands in a different way. Pritchard’s estimation is that as traditional advertising fades, branded content will continue to grow.

“It’s why we have content partnerships,” he said. “So consumers can find out about brands through great content as opposed to a straight ad.”

Jameson Fleming contributed to this piece.

@dianapearl_ diana.pearl@adweek.com Diana is the deputy brands editor at Adweek and managing editor of Brandweek.