'We try to entertain, but there are only so many hours in a day' - Procter & Gamble UK marketing chief on real-time marketing

The panel at the Guardian's Changing Advertising Summit

Procter and Gamble's UK marketing chief today laid bare the challenges facing brands when it comes to real-time marketing: "We try to entertain, but there are only so many hours in a day."

Speaking on a panel at the Guardian's Changing Advertising Summit, P&G's Roisin Donnelly insisted that despite the recent hype surrounding real-time marketing, it is not a new concept to marketers.

She said: "We do real-time marketing because it builds brands and businesses, and it makes a profit.

"A lot of people say that Oreo invented real-time, but real-time has always been there since we started using word of mouth, and at P&G since we started using radio.

"Real time was about 'hold the front page', so when people saw the news the next day, we would have topical ads in the newspapers next them. So real-time has always been around. It's the speed at which we do it and the importance of it and the percentage of the marketing behind it which has gotten bigger."

Fellow panelist Paul Sweeney, head of brand for Paddy Power, pointed to the way real-time marketing through platforms such as Twitter allows brands to connect to customers without the cost barriers of traditional ad campaigns.

"Real-time marketing offers the potential for massive reach and amazing engagement without the capital cost association of marketing campaigns," he said, before describing Paddy Power as a company in the "entertainment business" by virtue of the way it delivers social adverts within minutes to become part of the conversation.

Donnelly replied that P&G aims to entertain too, but stressed the practicalities: "There are times when people want to be entertained, but people only have so many hours in a day and every brand in the world can set out to entertain."

She pointed out that P&G has 72 brands in the UK, implying that attempting to create real-time constant campaigns for each would be impractical.

“There are times when people aren’t listening,” Donnelly said.

Sweeney contested that brands not looking to engage in real-time were missing an opportunity, claiming that Paddy Power was outspending on real-time by 5-1 in comparison to traditional media spend.

He explained: "We leverage a lot of real-time tools, agility and engagement around subjects that people and customer are interested in and we enjoy leading brand awareness among our target audience despite being outspent.”

He would later cite the brand's recent Rainbow Laces football campaign as having reached 27 per cent of UK adults, without great expense.

AKQA’s executive creative director, James Hilton, gave an insight into why real-time marketing isn’t always successful, arguing that poor campaigns stemmed from “people groping for relevant trends” rather than serving their audience in a relevant manner.

He elaborated: "Real time is a made-up name for something that already existed and if you are not having a relevant dialogue with your audience then you are not going to be doing particularly well as a business and you’re not going to be seen to care.”

Donnelly admitted that she was "flooded" with real-time marketing proposals and that she only said "yes" to the ones that were "on strategy and build a brand."

Meanwhile, Sweeney and Dan Plant, real-time planning director for MEC, both cited the importance of planning real-time campaigns in order to make the most impact when they rolled out.

"By understanding how people are talking about and responding to your ad campaign you can change the schedule," explained Plant. “It's all about relevance and get people's attention in a world where they don't want to pay attention to us."

Despite this, Justin Cooke, CEO of Innovate 7, argued that campaigns should not be overplanned to the point that "you can kill an idea by committee”.

This led Donnelly to reveal that within P&G a single person was empowered with autonomy for decisions over Facebook, Twitter and digital platforms, in order to avoid them being caught up in red tape.

Cooke also advised that a brand should be "consistent" if they begin to use real-time marketing, claiming that a couple of adverts would not be effective.

"You need to keep doing good stuff not just one or two things... get out there and keep doing good stuff," stated the former Topshop chief marketing officer.

The panel was chaired by former Marketing editor Noelle McElhatton.

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