As the person responsible for one of the biggest advertising budgets in the world, Procter & Gamble Chief Brand Officer Marc Pritchard has to constantly be aware of where internet giants Facebook, Google and Amazon are headed.
For now, those "walled gardens" show no sign of opening up, Pritchard said on Friday at the Association of National Advertisers' Masters of Marketing conference in Orlando, Florida. Because the companies don't give a full picture of how ads are performing, Pritchard said P&G has been building its own database for many years to create a more complete picture of how consumers are engaging with its ads across the web.
"The walled gardens are probably going to remain walled, so we're taking matters into our own hands," said Pritchard, whose company spent $6.75 billion on advertising in 2019. P&G now has more than 1.5 billion consumer IDs, a number that's "rapidly increasing," he said.
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In an interview following his presentation, Pritchard said the company's database holds a combination of device data that can be curated to create anonymous or pseudonymous consumer IDs. P&G also has personal data that consumers have agreed to share in places like Olay's "Skin Advisor" app, which prompts users to take a selfie and provide personalized skincare routines. He said the company clearly asks for permission to ensure compliance with privacy laws.
"When we have data, it just gives us more options," Pritchard said. "We can identify other places where we can reach people. If we can work with an existing company, any company, whether it be walled garden or not, and get some good precision and get some good reach and cap frequency and all that, then we go for that."
Pritchard said that P&G's database allows it to pursue programmatic media buying to target the right consumers without "annoying ad frequency." That kind of data could also help with TV advertising, he said. Tide found it was reaching the same U.S. household as many as 22 times a month, so P&G started placing ads for the laundry detergent with greater precision.
After previously slamming the digital ad industry for its lack of transparency around ad views, audience reach and fraud, Pritchard said that P&G "exposed substantial waste, so we reduced wasteful spending and reinvested into better-performing media."
The company has also asked media providers to do a better job with content moderation to cut out hateful and toxic speech and for better transparency across media platforms "to stop excess ad frequency that only serves to annoy consumers and wastes all of our money."
The next step, he told CNBC, is more transparency between sites like Google, Facebook and Amazon so marketers know when they're reaching the same person on different platforms.
P&G has been investing in non-traditional advertising that it expects to be more entertaining for viewers.
"We're trying to merge the ad world with other creative worlds," Pritchard said, whether that's with entertainment, music, comedy or technology.
Some examples include a series of funny videos the brand showed during Sunday Night Football and a love song from John Legend to beauty brand SK-II's skincare product Pitera. The company has also had success with simple functional videos like showing users how to use a type of cleaning sponge.
"That probably won't win any awards at Cannes, but that's just fine," Pritchard said, showing a chart of the sales growth since one video launched.