P&G cozies up to creators as it looks to 'reinvent advertising'

  • Procter & Gamble (P&G) revealed several new creative partnerships at the Cannes Lions festival this week that are intended to "reinvent advertising" by merging the ad world with other creative endeavors, according to a press release. In one example, the company is partnering with performer John Legend to explore parenthood, modern masculinity, music and social justice for P&G's Pampers, Gillette and SK-11 brands.
  • Arianna Huffington's Thrive Global organization will work with P&G to blend cognitive, behavioral and life sciences in an attempt to reduce stress and improve health for customers of Oral-B, Crest, Pampers, Venus, Secret and Pantene. A new P&G-sponsored short film on racial bias, "The Look," will debut June 26, building on the company's previous award-winning short film, "The Talk."
  • Initiatives announced at Cannes also include a relaunch of talent discovery service Free the Bid, which has been renamed Free the Work, for women and underrepresented creators to develop new stories; a creative partnership with LGBT-focused organization GLAAD to celebrate human inclusion and expression, including a new film from Pantene; and a new interactive P&G LifeLab at Cannes that will feature new experiences around P&G products, such as a VR project from Verizon Media that uses content from the Huffington Post.

Dive Insight:

P&G's announcement shows the company has set its sights on developing relationships with creators outside of the advertising industry as it looks to tell new stories around equality and inclusiveness. Coming as it did at Cannes — the annual high-profile celebration of creativity in the advertising world — the news shows that P&G is continuing on a path it started two years ago of challenging the status quo in marketing.

"For too long, the ad world has been in its own world — separate from other creative industries and becoming less relevant to consumers. It's time to reimagine creativity to reinvent advertising," said Marc Pritchard, chief brand officer at P&G, in the press release. "There are vast sources of creativity available, and today P&G is taking action to merge the ad world with other creative worlds though partnerships that embrace humanity and broaden our view of what advertising could be."

The news also reflects the importance of digital technology for P&G as it attempts to enact change in the marketing industry and tell new stories, as evidenced by a focus on short films, VR and behavioral-based services that, while not stated, seem likely to include digital activations in some cases.

Under the leadership of Pritchard, P&G's marketing organization has been using its ad budget and market size to champion digital ad transparency and brand safety as well as social justice and inclusion. As these efforts have taken shape, in some cases providing commercial success for P&G, the packaged goods giant is increasingly challenging the role of stakeholders like agencies — including by moving some responsibilities in-house that were previously handled by agency partners — and major digital platforms such as Google and Facebook. In April, for instance, Pritchard called for a complete reinvention of the digital media supply chain that would elevate quality, improve portrayals of diverse consumers, promote civility, simplify privacy, and introduce a single ad marker that can be applied to ads across online and TV.

The newly announced creative partnerships build on the announcements made at last year's Cannes. Those announcements included a partnership with Katie Couric to develop profiles of accomplished women that were sponsored by Olay, Secret and Pantene, and a short film on the expectations of women sponsored by cosmetics brand SK-11.

Also announced last year was The Queen Collective with performer Queen Latifah, Tribeca Studios and United Talent Agency that created and distributed films by multicultural women directors, and a partnership with National Geographic and Global Citizen to develop a documentary series on extreme poverty, inequality and environmental sustainability.

The firm also pledged last year to increase the percentage of female directors for its ads from 10% to at least 50%.

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