P&G cleans up

Gord Meyer, a 35-year P&G veteran who heads up the majority of those brands, that landed P&G the Top Advertiser spot in this year's CRC, explains what makes the CPG giant such a winner.

Procter & Gamble’s big year extends beyond Canadian borders; the global giant was even named Advertiser of the Year at the 2009 Cannes Lions International Advertising Festival. Here at home, stand-out creative for brands that include Pringles, Cheer, Febreze, Gain and Pantene, primarily by Leo Burnett and Grey Canada, brought major kudos from Cannes, the Clios and the LIAAs, to name a few.
This year, P&G took cleaning products beyond cleaning, often espousing their other virtues. The Gain campaign focused on scent, with TV creative derived from consumer anecdotes. And animated print executions for Cheer Dark showed just how slimming black could be on someone who might tip the scales.
From Pantene’s Rapunzel stunt, featuring long locks coming out of a window, to simple but powerful print work for Pringles and Febreze, there was no shortage of quality creative for this awards season.
‘The overarching goal last year was to double down on the things that work. And recessions aren’t excuses,’ says Gord Meyer, Canadian Household Care business unit director. ‘We continue to demonstrate that we can still be a company of brands – highly successful, growing consumer penetration – and our size is actually an asset in developing that.’
We asked Meyer, a 35-year P&G veteran who heads up the majority of those brands, what makes P&G such a winner.

How do you work with other P&G marketing organizations around the world?
We have been refining our global collaborative processes considerably. The Canadian group that works on Febreze is plugged into global and regional groups, and it’s almost like a virtual network. They’ll look to areas where there’s particularly strong development, and they’ll ask those areas to lead commercialization ideas so others can reapply them.
And when you’re taking that to a high level, what inevitably happens is that we have not only the ideas travelling but the talent travelling as well, so it turns into a virtual global team.

For the Gain campaign, where did the insight of focusing on scent come from?
These kinds of insights come from our segmentation. We know consumers value the experience not only of their laundry once done, but their laundry as they’re doing it. We talk to people, and qualitatively, quantitatively go deep on [research].
Gain is a business that spans geographies, and our understanding of the experiential laundry consumer spans the globe. So when we mine this idea, we come up with the things that allow Gain to stand apart. It still needs to provide the cleaning that people expect, but [scent] used to be an ‘and’ idea, and so it’s from the deep consumer understanding that we are able to develop ways to differentiate it.
Frankly, it’s the kind of business that inspires creatives as well, and that’s why you see the award-winning creative that you do.

Are you doing anything interesting in social media?
This is an area we’re very active in, but you’re not going to see us doing large, one-shot things.
We’re trying to find out how we can keep building these consumer relationships, and certainly social media by its very definition can be a relationship builder. But if you have a relationship with a consumer, it’s a privilege. You don’t use new techniques without feeling your way through and making sure that you don’t break the bonds that earn you the privilege.
The Puffs [tissue] brand has done some great work. You’ll see a lot of Puffs advertising on the Weather Network, and Facebook will send your friends get-well cards if they’ve declared they’re sick. And when you look at those animated characters, it all works together.

Are awards important to P&G?
Because we’re a big company and we can sometimes be inward-looking, having the external credibility and kudos flow to the work that people do is hugely inspiring. Our current CMO Mark Pritchard and his predecessor Jim Stengel have been renewing the inspiration of marketers and the recognition of great work.
There was a time in our history when these awards didn’t seem important, but I would say in the last five or ten years, they’ve been really important.


Your face, in lights
Runner-up: James Ready

Every marketer wants to have a close relationship with their consumers, but James Ready could write the book on it. In fact, the five-year-old company has been talking to its drinkers from the beginning, putting little messages on beer caps and labels and appealing to both their sense of humour and of frugality. For example, labels that encouraged drinkers to send them back because they were expensive were actually peeled off and sent back to the Niagara Falls, ON. brewery.
Recently, the independent beer co took the relationship a step further with help from AOR Leo Burnett, mixing an old medium (billboards) with a relatively new idea (user-generated content) to create marketing gold (literally). By inviting consumers to share their billboards – and later, their radio waves – they not only swept awards season, including a Gold Lion at Cannes, but increased sales 45% over the previous year. Now that’s how you compete with the big boys.
Director of business development Chris Waldock spoke to strategy about the amazing year that was.

Being an independent, how does competition factor into your marketing decisions?
Our goal was to have a little more fun with it – see if it’s possible to give a brand a little bit of personality and set it apart. We checked out what our competitors were doing, and from there developed our strategy and moved ahead, and the rest is history.
So now every year it’s more looking at ourselves and where we stand with our brand and our drinkers and where can we go next because we’ve set a standard. [Consumers are] always going
to be looking for something new from us. That’s our challenge.

Why was it important to involve consumers?

That’s driven everything we’ve done.
We started a conversation with them through our caps and labels. They had a passion for our brand and wanted to be involved, and it just evolved from there.
The idea of actually putting their pictures up on one of our billboards and making them local celebrities was the ultimate as far as championing the efforts of our drinker. It ends up being a reward for the loyalty that we’ve seen.
We received pictures from a couple of guys in front of their billboards cutting a red ribbon. There was a band that submitted a picture, and they climbed up onto the billboard and took a photo of the group.

Recently you targeted university students with your beer cap exchange program, where they could collect caps and win household items.
There are really few new ideas when it comes to beer swag giveaways. I think everybody probably has a t-shirt from multiple brands, or a hat. Students don’t necessarily need a t-shirt, and they’re on a budget. We’d rather have them spend their money on James Ready beer, so we thought we’d provide them with household items that nobody likes to buy. So we offered toilet paper, toothpaste, Sharpies, laundry detergent, boxer shorts…We had guys walking out with boxes of cereal.

Do you have a favourite beer cap message?
Of caps gone by, I think my favourite was “You win a boat,” with an asterisk that said “You do not win a boat.” I always thought that was really funny.
My favourite label is the one that said “Please send this back, it’s expensive to replace.” I loved it that people actually sent back labels. That’s what started it all for us.


Tied for third

Frito-Lay North America
Juniper Park helped the U.S. branch of Frito-Lay earn high marks with a slew of award-bagging campaigns for some of its biggest brands. SunChips was positioned as a green brand through solar-powered executions that included newspaper ads only visible in sunlight, while the Lay’s “Happiness is Simple” campaign brought the chips back to their roots and focused on American farms.

War Child Canada
The powerful “Help Child Soldiers” campaign by John St. used the idea of propaganda and encouraged Canadians to donate weapons, knit balaclavas and put up lawn signs to support kids fighting in wars. If it sounds shocking, that was the point. The campaign not only had people talking but won a ton of national and international awards, ranging from the CMAs to the LIAAs. 


Top 20 Advertisers

1    Procter & Gamble    130
2    James Ready Brewing Company    95
3    Frito-Lay North America    71
3    War Child Canada    71
5    B.C. Dairy Foundation     62
5    Frito Lay Canada    62
7    McDonald’s Restaurants of Canada    48
8    Canadian Film Centre    44
8    Ikea Canada     44
8    Subaru Canada    44
11    General Mills Canada    42
12    The Looking Glass Foundation    40
12    Pfizer Canada     40
14    Molson Canada    37
15    Midas    34
15    Newfoundland & Labrador Tourism    34
17    InBev    30
17    Novartis    30
19    Bayer     29
19    Yellow Pages Group    29

See full list of advertisers