The Lions Live (the virtual version of the ongoing Cannes Lions Festival of Creativity) saw P&G’s chief brand officer Marc Pritchard in a session presented by the company. His talk aimed to highlight the brand’s journey in making equality the systemic way of bringing creativity to life. Further, it highlighted the organisation’s attempt to challenge and share ideas for more equal representation interventions in the creative and media supply chain.
Setting a context, Pritchard said that the events of 2020 and 2021 have elevated the role of brands as a force for good in society and business growth, especially when it comes to equality and inclusion. “It’s been an extraordinary time,” he said, “full of conversations, pledges and acts of good. Typically, following a heightened flurry of activity like this, interest dies down, and progress stalls. However, this isn’t another passing moment, and it's up to all of us to ensure that this time is different.”
Pritchard asked how to sustain an accelerated pace within the creative industry and make equality and inclusion, a sustainable part of creativity? The answer, he believes, is by committing to ‘choose equal’ and build equality into every aspect of creativity, not bolted on, as a separate effort. “Choose to make equality the systemic way of bringing creativity to life.”
Three-steps to change the world
Hereon, he shared some examples of P&G’s journey, admitting that while the organisation isn’t perfect, its commitment and actions are leading to progress. He highlighted three key steps that will help change the world:
1. Start inside
2. Use your voice
3. Change the system
“P&G’s journey started over 30 years ago when president John Pepper convinced the then CEO John Smale to make a company-wide commitment to diversity. At the time, the organisation largely comprised white, cisgender men. Leaders are instrumental and reinforcing that diversity wasn’t only good for society but also for business,” Pritchard said. He admitted that while these statements and policies seem obvious today, each one was a big deal when it was first made. “Each is critically important, because it reflects leadership beliefs and conviction, setting the tone from the top. It's the first and essential step to building equality into how we do business,” he added.
As of today, P&G claims it has developed a more diverse equal and inclusive workforce, extending the expectation to agencies, production houses suppliers and media companies. “When the pandemic hit, we chose to hit a call to action with ‘Choose Equal’,” said Pritchard.
On using P&G’s voice for good, Pritchard believes it has become a force for how the brand builds trust and a company reputation. He spoke about how P&G uses its voice to promote racial equality, and equal rights for the LGBTQIA community, among others.
“However, periodically using our voice to take a stand isn’t enough,” he said, speaking about building equality into everyday advertising through a commitment for accurate portrayal. “The quality is limited by bias. The portrayals of people in advertising and bad memories into our brains that form the bias affect perceptions of how people see each other. As one of the world's largest advertisers, we have a responsibility to accurately portray all people, regardless of gender, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity, ability, religion, body type, or age, because every person matters, and the images in advertising matter.”
Pritchard placed the onus of equality and diversity on each person who is a part of the creative ecosystem. However, while there’s progress within the creative and marketing teams, he believes that production crews and directors must also need to stage systemic interventions. “Accurate stories can only be told when the people behind the camera represent the people we serve,” he said.
Widen The Screen
The P&G veteran then addressed the need to introduce ‘Widen The Screen’, a content creation, talent development and partnership platform that looks at enabling increased representation and inclusion of black creators across the advertising film and media industry.
“It's a significant expansion of our existing partners and programme by providing access and opportunity to break into an industry that's notoriously difficult to enter in. Our immediate focus is on black creators with future expansion to Hispanic, Asian Pacific Islander native and indigenous creators, as well as underrepresented creators in the LGBTQ plus community and people with disabilities,” he explained.
The communities programme is founded on a call-to-action to widen viewers’ outlook by portraying a full view of the joy, beauty and vastness of black life, not reinforcing commonly held stereotypes of struggle, trauma, or extreme excellence.
Here, Pritchard closed off his introduction by playing the official ‘Widen The Screen film’