P&G’s Marc Pritchard: ‘Give Facebook & Google credit for the work they’re doing to improve'

Marc Pritchard

He’s been critical of the Facebook-Google duopoly in the past, but Procter & Gamble’s chief brand officer Marc Pritchard has said credit should be given to both platforms for the work they’re doing to clean up and improve third-party measurement.

Just a few months ago, the marketer blasted the digital media industry for a lack of transparency, privacy breaches, fraud and the proliferation of harmful content that its ads were at risk of appearing next to.

The P&G exec cautioned he had been “tolerant for too long” at the ANA conference in April and though he acknowledged “apologies [were] heartfelt and appreciated” from the platforms he said it “wasn’t good enough."

Fast forward three months the marketer in control of P&G's circa $7bn ad budget seems to have softened his hard line. Its "Transparency 1.0" drive, as he’s dubbed it, has been focused on getting Facebook and Google to accept MRC accredited third-party verification on viewability, audience reach and anti-fraud measures.

“That's gone very well. And most of the major platforms are well on their way to getting accredited,” he told The Drum at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity this week.

Control over content quality and “civility on editorial comments” – which he expects the platforms to take ownership of – as well as cross-platform measurement are “the next frontier" for Pritchard.

“It's difficult because these are huge platforms with billions of people on them. But look, I give them credit for putting their best foot forward. They’ve got a lot more to do and we're going to keep pushing. I'm still impatient. But we're all banding together to now try to focus on the right thing,” he said of their efforts to address his concerns.

“A lot of these platforms were developed for a different purpose, but we put advertising [on there] and our expectation is that they perform and operate as a responsible media. They've stepped up. Everybody is trying to do the right thing and we will continue to push them and I will continue to be very impatient. But I do want to give them credit for the work that they're doing.”

Google and Facebook have invested in their systems, particularly when it comes to content moderation. The Drum recently visited one of Facebook’s content moderation centres in Europe, where hundreds of human moderators coupled with AI are trying to weed out disturbing content before it hits screens.

On YouTube, Pritchard has been assured by Google’s promises of a clean-up. It resumed spending on the platform in 2018 after pulling its ads in the wake of the brand safety crisis that hit front pages the year before. The tech company created a “safelist” of tens of thousands of channels which now meet its new standards.

“We still get a good reach and we know that they're safe. And our standards on YouTube and Facebook are the same standards we have on TV and print. That's really all we're looking for is the kind of standards you have on those platforms.”

Forging new partnerships

However, for all the talk of navigating the digital platforms Pritchard sees P&G’s advertising future in alternative avenues.

The advertiser has forged a series of new, global partnerships that it hopes will allow it to better embed its brands in the likes of journalism, filmmaking, music, comedy, and technology.

It has inked a deal with singer John Legend, for example, who will work with P&G brands like Pampers, Gillette and SK-II to explore topics like parenthood, modern masculinity and social.

With Arianna Huffington's Thrive Global the company will look to create “healthy habits” for its brands. Early examples include a project for Oral-B where a wi-fi enabled toothbrush helps people understand how, where, and when to brush their teeth correctly.

It’s worked with a collective called ‘Saturday Morning’ to launch a film called ‘The Look’ that will address racial bias, while a renewed partnership with non-profit ‘Free the Bid’ will aim to get more women into creative advertising roles.

“We need totally new ways to reinvent advertising and reinvent creativity into our everyday products,” he said.

And its agencies – who have arguably endured a lot with P&G following a major cull of suppliers in 2017 and 2018 and before being asked to embrace experiments like its ‘People First’ cross-holding company model – are on board with these initiatives, which he claims are “creating an abundance of creativity.”

“It's not a zero-sum game. We view new creative partnerships as a way to actually enhance creativity, create an abundance of creativity. Our brand builders have really started to take more control and become more brand entrepreneurs that are working with this whole mix of different creative partners. It's actually quite exciting,” he said.

“We're just open for business. We love our small agencies and we love our large agencies and we love our other creative partners because we love creativity. Creativity loves diversity. And that's one of the reasons why we're doing this," he finished.

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