Ashwini Gangal

"Buyers expect brands to take a stand": P&G's Marc Pritchard

Procter & Gamble's chief brand officer Marc Pritchard on brand purpose and sustainability.

At the 44th IAA (International Advertising Association) World Congress, Kochi, Marc Pritchard, chief brand officer, Procter & Gamble, spoke about the importance of turning brands into a "force for good".

He began by bring up the most recent advert under detergent brand Ariel's long-running 'Share the Load' campaign umbrella. Created by BBDO India and directed by Gauri Shinde, the latest film encourages sons to help out with laundry duty at home.

"Buyers expect brands to take a stand": P&G's Marc Pritchard

Marc Pritchard

"Why do brands get involved in societal issues? Why not just stick to selling products?" Pritchard asked, and then went on to answer, "That's because buyers expect brands to, and favour brands that, take a stand." Advertising, he reminded the audience, affects lingo and language. We all use words and phrases popularised by ads (I wouldn't know words like keetanu and tvacha if not for ads). If advertising parlance can affect our speech and choice of words then the impact it can have on our thoughts, attitudes and eventually, actions, is huge. That was the broad premise of Pritchard's talk.

"If brands take a stand on real issues, imagine the impact..." he reiterated. This also includes the way brands portray women in ads. This is especially important because women are portrayed "negatively, inaccurately or stereotypically", in most ads.

Pritchard then named some brands from the P&G stable that have tried to counter this trend through categorically progressive themes. The company's feminine hygiene brand Always turned the idea of doing something 'like a girl' into a positive statement of strength and determination, Vicks de-gendered parenting in an ad about a transgender mother, Gillette's recent, polarising spot 'Is this the best a man can get?' is about setting the right example for the next generation of men ("despite the heat, Gillette will keep having this conversation" Pritchard asserted), ads for Dawn (dishwashing liquid), Swiffer (household cleaning products) and Pampers (diapers) comprise images of men doing household chores and taking care of babies, and a new ad titled 'Meet me halfway' for skincare brand SK-II is about fighting the pressure Chinese parents put on women to get married by a certain age.

Pritchard then spoke about sustainability and the link between brands and the physical environment. Detergent brand Tide is developing a formula that enables users to wash clothes in cold water; the idea is to conserve the energy they'd otherwise use to heat water for their laundry. In the context of shampoo brand Head & Shoulders Pritchard spoke about bottles made from recycled plastic. He also spoke about the company's latest efforts to create a range of "water less" personal care products (like dry shampoo, for instance) that, unlike their traditional versions, can be used in the absence of water. P&G is calling this brand DS3.

"It's time for the industry to unite and act..." said Pritchard, in conclusion.

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