Internet rewriting marketing rules: P&G

The Internet is breeding newly empowered consumers who are turning the old notions of branding and marketing on their heads, the co-founder of, Procter & Gamble's Internet marketing experiment, told delegates to Strategy's Online to Profit conference last week in...

The Internet is breeding newly empowered consumers who are turning the old notions of branding and marketing on their heads, the co-founder of, Procter & Gamble’s Internet marketing experiment, told delegates to Strategy’s Online to Profit conference last week in Toronto.

Not even a global marketing powerhouse like Procter & Gamble can ignore the fundamental influence of the Internet, said Nathan Estruth, marketing director of Procter & Gamble’s I-Ventures – the Internet arm of the Cincinnati, Ohio-based packaged goods giant.

‘We have gone from the old-world of brand as a finite definition – we know what it is, we have created it in our hallowed halls of marketing and we push it out to the world – to a brand that becomes what an individual consumer desires it to be. And if it doesn’t have the flexibility to become that, it is in danger of becoming obsolete,’ he warned.

P&G has long specialized in producing products designed to appeal to the largest number of consumers. But those products have little place in the Internet marketplace where Web-savvy shoppers are demanding unique and personalized products and services, he said.

‘The products that have the most mass appeal are the products that move the fastest through that retail space and thus give us the most return for our investment,’ he said, explaining the long-held view within P&G and many other packaged goods companies. ‘But the Internet has flipped that on its head. We have gone from limited SKU selection to an infinite SKU selection (on the Internet).’, P&G’s first major Internet venture, is an online cosmetics marketing site created in partnership with Calgary-based interactive marketing agency Critical Mass that allows individual consumers to buy products that have been customized and packaged for them.

‘We don’t care about the brand name being on the package,’ Estruth said. ‘All we care about is shelf impression, but a different kind of shelf impression. It’s not the shelf impression of what it will be in the store because it is never there. It is the shelf impression of when a woman puts it on her vanity.’

The Internet is forcing P&G to re-examine the way it advertises all its products, including cosmetics, of which it sells about US$7.5 billion worldwide annually. P&G is one of the world’s largest advertisers, spending more than US$3 billion a year – with as much as 95% of that on television.

However, the company is being forced to examine new ways of communicating with consumers.

‘The mass media era is over,’ Estruth said. ‘I am a bit of a radical. I go around and yell at all the brand managers and marketing directors telling them they that have their head in the sand because in three years that talent…is basically going to be meaningless. The high-value consumers are going to be demanding we talk to them one-on- one and we don’t know how to do that.’

Google launches a campaign about news connections

The search engine is using archival footage to convey what Canadians are interested in.

Google Canada and agency Church + State have produced a new spot informed by research from the search giant that suggests it is a primary connector for Canadians to the news that matters to them – a direct shot across the bow of the legislators presently considering Bill C-18.

In a spot titled “Connecting you to all that’s news,” the search giant harnesses archival footage reflective of many of the issues Canadians care about deeply, including the COVID-19 pandemic, climate change, truth and reconciliation and the war in Ukraine, to demonstrate the point that many Canadians turn to Google as a gateway to the information and news they’re seeking.

“From St. John’s to Victoria and everywhere in between, when Canadians want to understand or get updated on the most pressing topics, Google connects them to the news sources that provide it,” says Laura Pearce, head of marketing for Google Canada. “All of us at Google are proud to be that consistent and reliable connection for Canadians to the news they’re searching for.”

In some ways, the goal of the campaign was to tap into the varied emotional responses that single news stories can have with different audiences across the country.

“News may be factual, but how people respond to it can be very emotional,” explains Ron Tite, founder and CCO at Church + State. “Importantly, those emotions aren’t universal. One news story can create completely different reactions from different people in different places. Because of that, we simply wanted to let connecting to news be the focus of this campaign. We worked diligently to license a wide variety of actual news footage that we felt would resonate with Canadians.”

The campaign can be seen as a statement by the search provider on Bill C-18 – the Online News Act – that is currently being deliberated by a parliamentary committee. That legislation seeks to force online platforms such as Meta’s Facebook and Alphabet’s Google to pay news publishers for their content, echoing a similar law passed in Australia in 2021. The Act has drawn sharp rebukes from both companies, with Facebook threatening to ban news sharing on its platform.

Google Canada is not commenting on whether this new campaign is a response to C-18, but it has been public in its criticism of the legislation. In testimony delivered to parliament and shared on its blog, Colin McKay, the company’s head of public policy and government relations, said, “This is a history-making opportunity for Canada to craft world-class legislation that is clear and principled on who it benefits.” However, he noted that C-18 is “not that legislation.”

The campaign launched on Oct. 24 and is running through December across cinema, OLV, OOH, podcast, digital and social. Airfoil handled the broadcast production.