Procter & Gamble

Television and Procter & Gamble,
the world’s biggest advertiser, have
enjoyed a mutually beneficial relationship
since the earliest days of
the medium.
The maker of such ubiquitous
brands as Ivory, Tide, Crest and
Pampers has funneled billions of dollars worth of ad
spending into the coffers of broadcasters, cable networks
and syndicators over the years. P&G has also been a
force in programming, producing the daytime dramas that
became known as “soap operas” because of their sponsor,
as well as producing numerous made-for-TV movies,
awards shows and series.

“It was TV that was able to create mass awareness
of our brands, and creating mass awareness allowed
us to reinvest into advertising and continue to produce
more and more shows,” says Procter & Gamble Global
Marketing and Brand Building Officer Marc Pritchard. “Over time, this marriage of content and advertising has
helped both industries grow and flourish.”

“P&G early on realized that they had a head start on
television relative to their competition, and they have
learned to use it in a unique way,” says Irwin Gotlieb,
who worked on the P&G media buying account for 22
years before joining GroupM, where he is CEO. “And
that led them to invest money in the medium, to invest
their resources to improve the medium.”

Gotlieb says P&G was among the first advertisers to
put big money into cable and syndication. “They have
always been proactive to ensure that the medium remained
healthy. And they didn’t just put their money
where their mouths were. They put their resources and
their efforts behind it.”

 Through its involvement with TV, messages for P&G
brands have seeped into America’s consciousness.

P&G has had “an enormous influence not only because
it provided thousands of hours of programming
through the years, but its brands, as communicated to us
through television advertising, have provided some of
the modern corporate folksongs and sayings for the past
half-century or more,” says Robert Thompson, director
of the Bleier Center for Television and Popular Culture
at Syracuse University.

Those memorable sayings include “Four out of five
dentists” recommending Crest, Rosie touting Bounty as “the quicker picker-upper” and Mr. Whipple admonishing
consumers, “Please don’t squeeze the Charmin.”

In the early days of TV, marketers and their agencies
produced and sponsored entire
programs. “As we moved
into the later 1950s, that began
to change, whereas Procter &
Gamble really stayed with that
model on their daytime soap
operas,” Thompson noted.

The soaps started on radio
and lasted until As the World
went off the air in September
of this year.

“The hallmark of the P&G
soaps always remained their
rich tapestries of communities
and characters,” says Barbara
Bloom, Senior VP, Daytime
Programs at CBS, which aired
them for more than 50 years. “Fictional towns and people
became families to generations
of viewers, and the legacy of
their storytelling will forever be the deep emotional connections
so many people felt to their shows.”

P&G is known for eschewing especially racy and
violent programming. In the early days, those values
had considerable influence over what got onto network
schedules. These days, with cable networks producing
edgy original programming, conservative advertisers
hold less sway.

“As important as Procter & Gamble is to the economics
of television advertising, and it is very important
to them, I would not go so far as to say that Procter
& Gamble is determining the content of American television
because there’s an awful lot of stuff on American
television now that probably is not up to Procter &
Gamble’s standards and it’s on TV,” says Thompson.

Pritchard says appropriate content is important. “Many of our brands are loved and trusted by moms
and families, so much of our advertising is placed
within those contexts,” he says.

That practice is good business. “We’ve found that
brands are really judged by the company they keep,”
Pritchard says. “When they’re in content that is appropriate
for the entire family we’ve seen that the favorability
ratings of our brands go up significantly and the
purchase intent goes up significantly. And we’ve found
just the opposite in shows that may be less appropriate
or not appropriate at all for the whole family viewing
things together. And that’s because context matters.”

P&G invests in programs to create more family-friendly
options. Its current productions include The People’s
Choice Awards
and the Family Movie Night films it creates
with Wal-Mart, such as Secrets of the Mountain, The
Jensen Project
and the upcoming A Walk in My Shoes.

 As far as P&G is concerned, the investment pays off. “Our consumers get programming that they like and
they can watch with their families. Our ads, the images
of our brands and the reputations of our brands and
equities are built. And we generate more sales. And so
does Wal-Mart,” Pritchard says.

While some see digital being TV’s death knell,
Pritchard sees the industry changing and P&G helping
to spur innovation. That happened in cable, where P&G
was an early backer of Lifetime and Discovery and recently
pledged to spend $40 million a year on the new
Oprah Winfrey Network.

Joe Abruzzese, president of advertising sales for Discovery,
recalls that when he was with Viacom, P&G
made one of the first big multiplatform deals, spending
$300 million on many of Viacom’s media assets, including
CBS. “They have an unbelievable read of the market, ” Abruzzese says. “When P&G does something, the
industry follows. They’re usually in front of something.”

Pritchard says he expects the challenge of new media
to force television to step up its game. “You now have
more choices in terms of being able to engage people,
but if you want broad-scale awareness, you still go with
TV,” he says.

At the same time, changes in technology and consumer
behavior are creating new opportunities. “People
are watching TV and are also on the Internet and texting
and so forth,” Pritchard says. “If you can get some
simultaneous or even somewhat different content going
at the same time, you see a bigger boost in engagement
on your brands.”

Recently, P&G has seen social media take a TV campaign —Old Spice’s “Smell Like a Man”— and multiply
its reach. The ads became a viral sensation, drawing
millions of online views. The company let consumers
send questions via Twitter to spokesman Isaiah Mustafa,
who answered in YouTube videos. In addition to generating
views, it boosted sales. “We can’t get enough supply, ” Pritchard says. “We’re selling out of Old Spice.”

The bottom line is television still works for P&G, and
vice versa. “We continue to innovate with communications
and how we make sure that we engage people
with our ads, and now we’re renewing our commitment
to content that our brands can be associated with,”
Pritchard says. “We’ve grown with TV, and we will
continue to grow with it.”

Jon Lafayette

Jon has been business editor of Broadcasting+Cable since 2010. He focuses on revenue-generating activities, including advertising and distribution, as well as executive intrigue and merger and acquisition activity. Just about any story is fair game, if a dollar sign can make its way into the article. Before B+C, Jon covered the industry for TVWeek, Cable World, Electronic Media, Advertising Age and The New York Post. A native New Yorker, Jon is hiding in plain sight in the suburbs of Chicago.