Procter and Gamble – Searching and Reapplying

I grew up on the P&G media account. When I first got involved, I didn’t understand them at all. They had their own processes, their own rules, and even their own language made up of acronyms.

I learnt later that one rule was that no memo (this was pre-email; for goodness sake it was nearly pre-electricity) could be longer than one page of A4 in length. The acronyms bought you precious space.

You could say they invented Twitter way before Twitter.

Early on in my career on the business I went to an industry event and got talking to the other agency media heads working on other elements of the Procter account.

One, Saatchi’s John Perriss gave me advice I’ve remembered to this day. Procter and Gamble, he said were the best client in the world. They believed in advertising, they spent loads of money, they believed in paying their agencies properly, and they were extremely loyal.

I remembered this when helping my agency (Leo Burnett) win AOR assignments around the world, when I was offered a job by Aegis (whose CEO, Sir Crispin Davis was at P&G and who I’m sure was more impressed that I had Procter experience than he was by anything else I had ever done), and when I read in today’s edition of The Drum newsletter that their current CMO Marc Pritchard is now officially ‘an advertising legend’.

We all have our Procter anecdotes. First off, the name. It’s spelt with an ‘er’, not an ‘or’.

I once made that mistake and was corrected by being told to remember ‘cleaner, whiter, Procter’.

Then when I was at Carat (then most definitely not a Procter agency) I was asked if I would put together a team to come and present on how we saw ‘the next 20 years of media’. Any thoughts I had on how I was about to become a massive hero by winning the business was dashed in the next sentence: ‘This is not a pitch, you will not win business, you are not to sell, and we will pay you a fee plus expenses.’

Finally, when lunching with them after our ‘futures’ presentation they asked me if I thought they should invest in what was then referred to as ‘satellite TV’.

I started off on the pros and cons of Sky only to be stopped and told very politely that they meant ‘invest in’ as in ‘buying our own satellite station’.

Of course, more recently it was Procter, and Marc Pritchard who gave oomph to the transparency debate that has reshaped agency finances, and who laid out the conditions he expected from the major platforms before committing to them.

The Procter mantra always used to be ‘search and reapply’. Find what works, then do it again in other words.

Not everything they do (or Marc does) comes good, of course, but in The Drum piece Pritchard makes the point that even after close to 40 years in marketing he never stops learning.

It’s a welcome antidote to those who consider that they know everything, and that this gives them permission to never stop telling.

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