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P&G ramps up marketing amid coronavirus demand: ‘This is not a time to go off-air’

P&G produces stockpiling favorites such as Charmin

In the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, advertisers are all grappling with the same quandary: to spend or not to spend. Procter & Gamble has committed to the former – citing the need to retain “mental availability” of its brands in a time when their physical availability may be lacking.

P&G today (17 April) reported an organic sales increase of 5% year-on-year as the coronavirus boosted consumer demand for products in its healthcare, fabricare and homecare categories.

The CPG giant, which produces the likes of toilet paper brand Charmin and cold relief medicine Vicks, witnessed US sales rise by 10% this quarter. The bump successfully offset the corresponding 8% decline in the Chinese market.

Despite the lift circumstantial demand – as well as “concentration” of the number of products shipping to retailers – chief financial officer Jon Moeller confirmed the company would be putting its foot down on media spend, rather than taking it off in an effort to bank cash.

He noted that while reduced product availability worldwide may lead to greater consumer trial of P&G products, it can also lead consumers away from their brands.

“There are consumers that are trying products that they haven't tried before – but they aren't necessarily ours,” he told investors. “We need to work hard to ensure that we maintain mental and physical availability to the greatest extent possible, so that those consumers return to their beloved and trusted brands – which are ours – as they're more fully available.

“There's a big upside here in terms of reminding consumers of the benefits that they've experienced with our brands and how they've [met] their family's needs, which is why this is not a time to go off air.”

Moeller noted the worldwide increase in media consumption was an added opportunity in “doubling down” on brand visibility.

“This is not a time to retrench,” he said. “And really that's all in service to our consumers and service to our retail partners, and – we believe – in service to our society.”

The company is also monitoring its portfolio throughout the Covid-19 period with an eye to mix it up once consumer spending patterns restabilize. Moeller said not everything would go back "on the shelf" post-coronavirus.

"I think this is a reset opportunity for us and for our retail partners and I'm encouraged by the conversation so far in terms of approaching that in a constructive, partnered fashion," he said.

P&G’s Q3 marketing spend was up 1.9% year-on-year, driven by increases in the beauty healthcare, and baby, feminine and family categories.

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