Last June in Cannes, Procter and Gamble chief brand officer Marc Pritchard announced the conglomerate’s commitment to hiring female directors for half of its commercials by 2023. The company still has a few more years to go, but it’s made moves over the last year with an initiative called The Queen Collective, a program providing resources and opportunities to young, unknown and diverse female filmmakers. A year after the program’s initial introduction, the first two short films of The Queen Collective premiered last weekend at the Tribeca Film Festival, followed by a wider distribution on Hulu, where they’re currently available to stream.
The initiative is in partnership with Queen Latifah, a longtime face of the Covergirl brand, which owned P&G up until 2015. Pritchard told Adweek the idea first came to life after he and Latifah spoke on a panel and decided to make a formal effort to support female directors. That led to teaming up with Tribeca Studios, the branded content arm of the Tribeca Film Festival.
Both short films—Ballet After Dark, directed by Brittany Fennell (better known as B.Monét), and If There Is Light, directed by Haley Elizabeth Anderson—are documentaries. Ballet After Dark tells the story of a woman running a ballet program for survivors of sexual abuse and domestic violence in Baltimore, while If There Is Light follows a family in New York trying to get out of the shelter system.
Neither mention any P&G brands or are in any sense an advertisement. But the company sees films like these as an evolution of its advertising: creating quality content that stands for what a brand represents, rather than actually featuring said brand.
“[P&G is] constructively disrupting brand building on every front, and reinventing advertising is one major way in which we’re doing that,” Pritchard told Adweek. “You’re seeing more and more brands producing very engaging content or films … that expresses the values of those brands.”
Pritchard points to other campaigns within P&G that lean on similar narrative-driven stories—such as SK-II’s spotlight on the pressures unmarried Chinese women face in a documentary called Meet Me Halfway, and Olay’s recent foray into theater with the musical Olay Live: The Road to Glow—as examples of this sort of content-driven marketing.
“It’s the kind of work where stories are told, and they have meaning,” said Pritchard. “And then people will connect with those brands and search for those brands. It gets people to engage with those brands in a different way and then eventually learn more about them.”
And through these partnerships, more obvious advertising can follow. Pritchard said that P&G filmed additional videos with Monét and Anderson.
But more than content-driven marketing, the films created through The Queen Collective are an example of the company’s commitment to working with and empowering female directors. Pritchard points to the controversial Gillette ad from late last year, directed by Kim Gehrig, and the new approach P&G is taking to advertising for Venus with its “My Skin, My Way” to move away from the “stereotypical” view of the “thin Caucasian woman in a white bikini on a beach,” he said.
The program selected Anderson and Monét out of hundreds of applicants. And these films are only the beginning: There’s five more set for the future, with hopefully more to follow, Latifah said during the premiere event.
Latifah said the backing of a consumer giant like P&G for projects like the Queen Collective shows a willingness to make positive change. The first step to that change, she added, is wanting to make it in the first place.
“If your heart is in the right place, that’s a start, but then you have to learn a few things,” she said during a round table discussion. “What bothers people? What has been the problem? You’ve got to look in the mirror and get real. There are people whose heart is in the right place, but they say the wrong words, which shows ignorance. You have to get educated.”
And Paula Weinstein, evp of Tribeca Enterprises, said the partnership shows other corporate entities that they can create positive impact. “It is both surprising and exciting that corporations are really responding to the fact that they have an effect in the world,” she said. “They can, by their advertising choices and by the people behind the camera of the work that they do.”
Latifah commended Pritchard for making an effort to champion directors like Monét and Anderson, but both Latifah and Pritchard acknowledged that there’s more work that must be done—not just to hit P&G’s 2023 goal, but to changing the greater conversation around women and diverse voices in film and advertising.
“There’s so much work that needs to be done,” said Pritchard. “What I think is important about this is the power of diversity when it comes to creativity. This is helping us really get equality in the media and in the creative supply chain, not just at the marketer level, [but at] the agency level, the director and producer level. When you have that kind of equality, you get better creativity.”