Emily Tan
Jun 22, 2012

Cannes 2012: Marc Pritchard on keeping creativity fresh at P&G

Survival for 175-year old FMCG giant Proctor & Gamble is based on the ability to approach every day with a fresh outlook, like a startup.

Cannes 2012: Marc Pritchard on keeping creativity fresh at P&G

“On my first day at P&G my boss said, 'Young man, we don't believe in life cycles at P&G...we make a fresh case for our products everyday’,” Marc Pritchard, global marketing officer for P&G, told the audience during his seminar at the 2012 Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity yesterday.

A company that’s built on everyday, “non-passion” products such as soap, diapers, toothpaste and toilet paper cannot afford to rest on its laurels, Pritchard continued. “No one thinks much about us except for the few minutes each day when they wash their hair, brush their teeth and wipe their... countertop,” he said, earning laughs from the crowd.

“They won’t think twice about switching brands," he added. "They may not think much about us, but they’re constantly judging us, which means to win we have to make noticeably better products and communicate them with fresh creative ideas.

“My challenge is to take the products people hardly ever think about and entice them to think about it in a fresh new way."

Which is why the company is embarking on its most ambitious campaign ever for the London Olympics 2012, one that spans all its products and, for the first time, puts P&G in the limelight. Its “Thank you mom” campaign includes commercials that range from a humorous take on Febreze and the Azerbaijani Wrestling Team, to an inspirational Cover Girl commercial for female Olympic Boxer hopeful Marlen Esparza to a tear-jerking “Best Job” tribute to moms featuring P&G’s range of products.

“These ads all approach greatness differently and form P&G’s biggest, most ambitious campaign ever,” Pritchard said, adding that it was a campaign idea he was prepared to stake his career on.

He shared his three simple rules to keeping all this creativity rolling along.

Find the fruits in the roots

“Roots of the company is where it started to grow: How did it start? Who started it? What made it great? Who screwed it up?” Pritchard queried.

The Febreze campaign is one that stayed true to its roots: The product identifies itself as a “breath of fresh air” and communicates the realisation that you can close your eyes, but not your nose, said Pritchard. “What made the ad great is its veracity; it’s the real wrestling team and real blindfolded people showing real reactions,” he said.

Fight for freedom

Brand marketers need to fight to give creatives the freedom they need to truly innovate. “We sat down for a conversation with our agency creatives, and they admitted that they usually ignored creative briefs—or got the accounts people to translate it into actionable creative speak for them,” Pritchard said.

The problem with controlling creativity too much is that after a while, creatives no longer offer their best work. Instead they focus on trying to give you what you want. So P&G started giving our creatives the freedom to create. In the case of Tide Pods, the directive to the agency was “make them irresistible,” Pritchard said. The agency came back with Tide Pods “Pop a Lot” commercial and the product flew off the shelves.

Courage to say yes

“As a client it's easier to say no, or to, as we prefer, 'polite you to death',” Pritchard said. “This approach will never lead to creative ideas so brilliant your spine tingles, you go ‘WOW!’ and you’re prepared to stake your career on it—which is how I feel about the ‘Thank you Mom’ campaign.”

The article first appeared on Campaign APAC

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