P&G’s Marc Pritchard says ad landscape needs to ‘get simpler’ and consolidate

P&G’s chief brand officer Marc Pritchard has talked at length about the content “crap trap” that he believes has led to a surplus of bad ads that overpopulate screens and feeds. At the 4A’s Transformation conference in Los Angeles on Tuesday, Pritchard encouraged both brands and agencies to dig themselves out of the trap by creating fewer, but better, ads.

“If legends like Leo Burnett and David Ogilvy were to come back and observe our behavior today, what do you think they’d think we believe about advertising? Our behavior indicates we believe more is better,” he said. “We bombard consumers with thousands of ads a day. We’re awfully busy, but all of this activity is not breaking through the clutter. It’s just creating more noise.”

Pritchard said that the industry gets tired of ads “a lot faster than consumers do,” which is why many campaigns last for months, sometimes only weeks, rather than years. During his speech, he argued that this approach makes things unnecessarily complicated and often leads to mediocre creative.

“We need to stop chasing our tails and have the courage to do less,” he said. “Doing fewer and better ideas is indeed an act of bravery."

Pritchard also called on agencies to consolidate their services and return to more of a one-stop shop model, a move that he says will provide more consistency for brands and strengthen agency-client relationships. While he admitted that P&G has in the past “fed the complexity beast by hiring thousands of agencies globally,” he pointed to company’s recent agency consolidation, which saw it cut the number of agencies it works with worldwide by nearly 50%, as a step in the right direction since P&G “couldn’t possibly manage thousands of agencies effectively, let alone be a good partner to any one of them.”

Even so, he said that 95% of P&G’s work is concentrated in fewer than 20% of its agencies, noting that there's still more simplification to be done.

Commenting on the brand safety crisis that’s seen companies like Johnson & Johnson and AT&T pull their ads from YouTube, Pritchard said that P&G holds both agencies and publishers “equally responsible for placing ads only where they belong and keeping them away from objectionable content.” At P&G, he said even just a couple thousand impressions served up next to offensive content is still “a couple thousand too many.”

“We have a zero tolerance standard when it comes to brand safety,” he said. “Our brands are protected in other forms of media. The same zero tolerance standard of performance applies to all digital media.”

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Minda Smiley

Minda Smiley is a reporter at The Drum covering creativity and advertising. Based in Philadelphia, she primarily covers independent agencies and B2B marketing. She also oversees The Drum’s “Independent Influence,” a weekly series that spotlights the work, perspectives and inspirations behind independent agencies. During her time at The Drum, she has covered industry events including SXSW, ANA Masters of Marketing, 4A’s Transformation and C2 Montréal. She is a graduate of the City University of New York’s Graduate School of Journalism.

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