P&G says ‘unprecedented’ attention on Gillette ad hasn’t impacted sales (yet)

P&G's ad for Gillette divided viewers but hasn't hurt sales (yet)

Gillette parent company Procter & Gamble (P&G) has revealed that, so far, sales for the razor brand have been unaffected by the recent furore over its ‘We Believe’ ad campaign.

On its second-quarter earnings update, the FMCG giant’s chief financial officer Jon Moeller said it received “unprecedented levels of both media coverage and consumer engagement” over the marketing campaign.

The work — which only ran in the US — aimed to explore toxic masculinity in the #MeToo era, but its execution divided global viewers. In the UK, Good Morning Britain presenter Piers Morgan blasted it as “absurd virtue-signalling PC guff” on both TV and Twitter.

However, Moeller said it was all part of an “effort to connect more meaningfully with younger consumer groups” and added that “early results, when you look at the age-group specifics, both internally and externally, reflect that we're accomplishing that objective."

It echoed comments made to The Drum by Gillett’s top marketer in the UK in the immediate aftermath of the campaign, created by Grey New York, going live. Elena Valbonesi said she was watching the potential negative sales impact “closely,” but added that it was more important that overall sentiment towards the brand remained positive.

According to a survey of more than 2,000 adults by research firm Morning Consult, most Americans reacted favorably to the ad, with just 17% having a negative view of the work.

The survey suggested that sales were unlikely to be impacted. In the two weeks before the campaign launch, 69% of Americans said they would consider purchasing products from Gillette. And in the days after, that dipped slightly to 65%. However, that 65% level is within the bounds of their normal purchasing consideration, with the firm saying it has been at that level or lower at multiple points over the past year.

Moeller appeared unconcerned, advising that sales remained "in line with pre-campaign levels.”

"We continue to be pleased with the level of consumption post the advertisement both in traditional retail channels and, importantly, on the Gillette shave club,” he added.

Though P&G’s overall sales beat expectations for the second quarter in a row, with organic growth of 4%, the Grooming business (where Gillette sits) saw a sales decline of 3% on the previous quarter.

Ad cuts will keep coming

P&G also hinted that more cuts to its advertising agency, media, and production spend were on the way.

Over $1bn in savings have now been made in the four years since execs began a cull of the agencies on its rosters and started moving more areas of its marketing mix, such as production, in-house.

Moeller said he expects this to continue as he eyes more efficiencies.

Hinting at the plan for 2019 was the restructure of the company’s North American roster last week, which saw its in-house agency “win” a larger share of the media business alongside Dentsu Aegis Networks’ Carat, a blow to Omnicom’s Hearts & Science, which was originally set up to service P&G brands.

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