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Consumers are doing everything they can to avoid ads. Here’s how P&G, one of the world’s largest advertisers, is finding a way around that

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Consumers are doing everything they can to avoid ads. Here’s how P&G, one of the world’s largest advertisers, is finding a way around that

Marc Pritchard, chief brand officer at Procter & Gamble.

Getty/Phil Cole

  • P&G knows that consumers are doing everything in their capacity to avoid ads, and is rethinking how it targets them.
  • With the rise of over-the-top streaming, P&G has started to create and commission content specifically for the medium.
  • It has also started to unabashedly take strong points of view in its ads, embracing technology and sustainability like never before, because consumers are asking that of brands today.

From blocking digital ads online to cord-cutting and watching less TV than ever before, consumers are doing everything in their capacity to avoid branded messaging, forcing big advertisers like Procter & Gamble to rethink their advertising strategies.

The consumer-packaged-goods giant knows that traditional marketing is being disrupted and that consumer expectations have evolved, and is trying to reinvent how it reaches its consumers, P&G chief brand officer Marc Pritchard told Business Insider in an interview at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, last week.

“Traditional TV continues to decline; digital is being increasingly blocked,” he said. What we’re doing is reinventing our media, using privacy compliant anonymous consumer IDs to be able to reach people more directly. So we give them ads when they want them, how they want them.”

P&G is focusing on creating content for over-the-top streaming platforms

The growth of over-the-top streaming has meant that P&G has started to create and commission content specifically for the medium, said Pritchard. Such content is geared at expressing a certain P&G brand’s point-of-view, and sponsoring programs in such a way that it appears not to be an ad at all.

The company just worked with Katie Couric Media, for instance, where it created some short, six-minute news programs with some of its brands — namely Pantene, Olay, and Secret — embedded in them. It has also partnered with Arianna Huffington and Queen Latifah, and hired two black women directors to create content on behalf of the company. Olay basically turned some of their ads into a musical on VaynerMedia.

“The younger generation, in particular, is really looking at ads in a different way,” said Pritchard. “Not as we know them and have known them; they’re looking at ads with a point of view: what does this brand stand for, who are the people behind it?”

Its brands are also unabashedly taking strong points of view

To that end, P&G’s Asian skincare brand SK-II ran a campaign called “Marriage Market Takeover” in China, challenging the convention that women have an “expiration date” as to when they need to get married or when they need to have children. It produced “Expiry Date,” a four-minute film encouraging women to change their own destiny.

Taking a point of view doesn’t just make for good ads, said Pritchard. It actually yields economic results too. SK-II has been running in double digits since the ad in 2016, he said.

“They create this content, people see it, they search, and then they buy,” said Pritchard. “These ads actually turn into purchase intent, which is then sustainable.”

And the company is embracing both technology and sustainability

P&G is also trying to make its brands more sustainable. By using Tide and Ariel in the cold wash mode, for example, consumers can turn the temperature down 30 degrees Celsius because 80% of the laundry machine’s energy use is heating the water. So just by using that in washes and cold water, they’re being sustainable.

“We want to make it easy for people to be sustainable just by using the brand,” said Pritchard.

Ultimately, the company is increasingly embracing technology and embedding it into its products in a bid to compete with direct-to-consumer upstarts. With this approach, the technology often replaces the ad or becomes the ad itself, he said.

Read More: Direct-to-consumer upstarts are challenging big brands, but P&G’s Marc Pritchard is trying to beat them at their own game

For example, P&G’s skin-care brand Olay worked with artificial-intelligence startup Neurologix to create the Olay Skin Advisor, an AI-powered engine that tells users how old their skin looks. Users take a selfie, which is linked back to a database that gives them their skin’s age versus their actual age, plus product recommendations — essentially replacing an ad.

“It’s very clear that mass marketing as we know it is being disrupted,” he said. “And our focus is to lead that disruption by reinventing brand building.”

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