It isn’t every day you meet the man running the world’s biggest advertising budget.
But at the Wisconsin School of Business, we are privileged to host some of the best marketing minds in the business – and Marc Pritchard, Chief Brand Officer at Procter and Gamble, was no exception.
Earlier last month, MBA candidates from across the business school were treated to a Weikel Leadership Series presentation by Mr. Pritchard, who spoke on pressing topics facing the consumer products goods industry as well as his views on the future of advertising in an ever-evolving world of brand management.
To say that Pritchard is an anomaly in the corporate C-suite ranks is somewhat of an understatement. His time at the company (35 years) and longevity in the CMO role (10 years) are head and shoulders above the norm across the industry. Average CMO tenures have declined to about 18 and 24 months as companies seek fresh leadership atop the marketing function, often with mixed results. What has set him apart? Perhaps it is his unrelenting drive to focus on understanding buyer behavior and capitalizing on innovation that allowed P&G to leverage their global, iconic brands like Tide and Pampers to generations of new consumers.
His polished remarks highlighted the ways in which advertising must be both a “force for good” as well as a “force for growth”. Dogged by fragmented digital content in years’ past that found issues like P&G products uncomfortably nestled between partisan websites, he spoke about the controversial decision to dramatically pull back ads on several social media and streaming platforms – a choice, as he explained, was necessary to maintain the superior brand equity proposition that P&G prides itself on.
In addition to laying the groundwork for future AI-enhanced and machine learning-driven campaigns that he believes will set the standard for ultra-relevant ad targeting, Pritchard stressed the importance of taking stands on social issues in which the company has a vested interest. Take, for example, the award-winning longform spot “The Talk,”. Ostensibly an ad for P&G’s My Black is Beautiful™ community, “The Talk” poignantly addresses the lived experiences of black families in a world full of biases and prejudice. He acknowledged the risks of making such a bold statement about race in an increasingly divided nation, but maintained that not being part of the conversation was something that brands can’t afford to do if they want to be viewed as authentic and purpose-driven among today’s highly discerning consumer base.
It was truly a night to remember, if for no other reason than to hear from arguably the world’s best marketer about the reinvention of advertising as we know it. I can’t wait to incorporate the inspiring lessons learned from Mr. Pritchard’s speech into my career as a future brand manager and business leader.