P&G president calls on Canadian industry to step up

From the C-Suite newsletter: There's no better time to engage in "constructive disruption" of media, writes Geraldine Huse.

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By Geraldine Huse

In the face of a pandemic, Canadians are changing how they spend their free time and, in turn, how they consume content and media. These unprecedented times present us with an opportunity to reevaluate how we use our brand voice, who we reach with our messaging and how we evaluate our marketing effectiveness all with the mindset of being a force for growth and a force for good.

Canadian marketers spend more than $10 billion in media per year, with much of it wasted on unviewable ads, excess frequency, or unsafe placement. Savvy consumers are opting out with ad blockers while other consumers are just plain frustrated by the frequency of content. Now is the time for us to collectively lead constructive disruption in media.

Constructive is a carefully chosen word. Disruption can create winners and losers, but constructive disruption creates value for everyone. Consumers benefit from innovation, which increases consumption and grows markets. This fuels more innovation, more consumption, and more value for everyone in a virtuous cycle of growth. It will be up to us, the marketers, to lead this transformation.

With that in mind, there are three areas I believe can be game changers for P&G and the entire marketing industry in Canada.

First, we need to eliminate hateful content. This content is most often race or ethnically based, but can also touch on issues such as gender, age and sexual orientation. There is no place for this content; it is bad for people, bad for society and bad for business.

P&G continuously reviews all media on which we advertise to ensure our brands are not on or near hateful content. Globally, some progress has been made with the main digital platforms and we’ve agreed to common definitions for reporting through the Global Alliance for Responsible Media (GARM).

Now we need enforcement, which starts with common metrics that are transparent and independently verified. We will find other options when digital platforms are unable or unwilling to remove content deemed hurtful by the agreed-upon standards. History has shown that when industries cannot or will not self-regulate, governments will step in. If we as an industry cannot solve this problem, others will do it for us.

Second, we must strive to accurately and respectfully portray people of all genders, races, nationalities, sexual orientations, abilities, ages and cultures to eliminate stereotypes and to reach all consumers with our brands, messaging and media that is targeted and relevant to them.

For example, at P&G, our new Gold Series brand was designed by Black PhDs and scientists specifically for the unique needs of textured hair; Secret recently announced a $1 million commitment to support top women’s hockey players; and Pantene has launched a campaign called #HairHasNoGender that will support the Dresscode Project as it works to create more positive and gender-affirming spaces.

While we don’t have all the answers yet, we’re committed to figuring out ways to serve all consumers in Canada with our brands and messaging. We believe this will be a source of growth for years to come.   

Third, we need to level the playing field with a transparent media supply chain. Imagine if marketers had the information to buy media in real time and reach people on a personalized basis without excess frequency. This would make the experience better for consumers and would eliminate waste that could be reinvested into reaching more unique people, which would be a win for everyone.

Today, this is incredibly hard as marketers have no way of knowing whether the consumers they reach via traditional media vehicles like linear TV are the same ones they reach via digital platforms like social and connected TV. We’re told this is impossible for a variety of reasons, and this is where we’re ready to lead constructive disruption.

We need a transparent and level playing field where all players participate in cross-platform measurement. A framework has been developed by the World Federation of Advertisers that lays out how this can be done, and now it’s time for the Canadian industry to bring this to life locally. We need everyone – marketers, broadcasters, digital platforms and measurement companies – to jointly work toward this goal with the utmost urgency.

We’re working closely with the Association of Canadian Advertisers on this in Canada, but we cannot do it alone. I’d like to set the ambitious goal of having a roadmap to cross-platform measurement with a timeline developed and agreed to by all major players in 2021.

If together we can achieve these three things – platforms that are free of hateful content, communications that accurately represent and reach our diverse Canadian consumers and measurement that is transparent and holistic – we could spend more of our time creating superior products and communications that delight our consumers and driving positive change in the communities in which we live and work. I believe there has never been a better time than now to transform media into a force for good and a force for growth.

Geraldine Huse is president of P&G Canada.