Cannes Inspires P&G Marketing Boss

CANNES A new way to work with agencies using research more as an “aid rather than a gate” and a determination that not just better creative, but campaigns with staying power rather than one-off executions were some of the key take-aways from Procter & Gamble global marketing officer Jim Stengel’s high-profile pilgrimage to Cannes with 27 other P&G executives.

“What I look for is people who do it year in and year out, like Volkswagen, Nike, Sony, Anheuser-Busch and some of our brands like Head & Shoulders,” Stengel told Adweek in a breakfast meeting Friday morning. “I’m not sure the [International Advertising] Festival awards continuity, the brands that keep arriving [and winning Lions year after year]. … I don’t think we see enough campaigns. Our industry has forgotten that a campaign doesn’t mean formulas. It means a continuing story about a brand.”

After almost a week of meetings with his agencies, talking to top creatives within and outside his roster of shops and viewing work from around the world, the top marketing executive of the world’s largest advertiser graded his decision to come to Cannes a “10 out of 10. The biggest reason it is paying off is inspiration.”

One source of that inspiration, Stengel said, was a Thursday meeting in which P&G invited leaders from roster and non-roster shops, including Saatchi & Saatchi worldwide CEO Kevin Roberts, Leo Burnett chairman and chief creative officer Cheryl Berman, TBWA Worldwide president and CEO Jean-Marie Dru (who worked on P&G at the former Dupuy Compton in London, now Saatchi & Saatchi, in the 1970s) and Linda Kaplan Thaler, CEO of new roster shop The Kaplan Thaler Group, to view a reel of P&G work. While Stengel would not discuss specifics of the exercise, he said the intent was to gather advice on how to “create a culture that gets great work.”

P&G also invited Cannes film and outdoor and press jury president Dan Wieden to speak with them, Stengel said, but the head of Wieden + Kennedy declined with regrets due to pressing engagements in the jury room.

Stengel’s Cannes education included culling new ideas on how to work with his shops, mostly involving how quickly information is presented to agencies, “At P&G, we have reinvented a lot of things, but the way in which we develop advertising hasn’t changed in decades,” he said. “We may not be using research the right way. We need to get [research discussions with the agencies] deeper and earlier.” Another idea to consider, Stengel said, was “how to brief our agencies on creative, not to overwhelm them and be very clear about our issues and brands.”

After reviewing the shortlist of Lions contenders, Stengel agreed that Honda’s “Cog” from Wieden + Kennedy was a front-runner, and he liked Goodby, Silverstein & Partners’ “Sheet Metal” for Saturn. He also cited advertising from Nike, Federal Express, Fox and Ikea as work he admired on the shortlist.

True to his pre-departure promise to make the P&G Cannes expedition a working trip, Stengel said that he hasn’t been to the beach much. “I did work by the pool yesterday,” he said, “but under an umbrella. One thing will change: I’m staying an extra day.”