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Procter & Gamble’s Marketing Chief Calls for Advertisers to Demand Higher Quality From Media

Marc Pritchard Procter and Gamble
Courtesy of Procter and Gamble

Procter & Gamble backs billion-dollar products like Crest, Tide and Pampers. Now it wants another one: safer media.

Marc Pritchard, the consumer-products giant’s chief brand officer and one of Madison Avenue’s most prominent figures, on Thursday urged advertisers to demand better quality of content and audience measurement from media outlets. His remarks represent,the latest call from a big-spending marketer for the media industry to enforce higher standards at a time when new digital venues have given rise to offensive videos, inaccurate measures of audience and less-than-transparent standards around the use of influencers, bots, and social-media accounts.

“Digital media continues to grow exponentially, and with it, a dark side persists, and in some cases, has gotten worse,” Pritchard said in remarks delivered at a conference held by the Association of National Advertisers, an influential trade group among advertisers, that included more than 650 attendees. “Waste continues to exist from lack of transparency and fraud. Seven out of 10 consumers say ads are annoying, and ad blocking is accelerating. Privacy breaches and consumer data misuse keeps occurring. Unacceptable content continues to be available and is still being viewed alongside our brands.”

Pritchard isn’t the first marketing executive to weigh in on the troubles introduced by the migration of consumers to streaming video and social media. Unilever, a P&G consumer-products rival that markets Axe grooming products and Hellman’s mayonnaise, last June called for an authenticity check of sorts when dealing with social-media personalities, bloggers, vloggers and the like. The company has also called out social-media outlets that allow offensive remarks that spur division.

But his concerns come as more media outlets and advertisers express open concern about the problems of using digital media. Few universal standards exist when it comes to quality of content or how to measure the audience that sees it. The rise of mobile devices and streaming video has given rise to a dizzying number of on-demand opportunities and measurement companies like Nielsen and Comscore, while moving forward with new products that measure digital viewing, have not gained critical mass when it comes to mapping out new consumer behaviors. And it has created an easier way for people who might never have access to producing a show on a traditional media venue like CBS or HBO to produce video content that isn’t as centered on rules of decorum or civility.

Even big-media chieftains are starting to express concern. In a speech delivered Wednesday, Disney CEO Bob Iger called social media “the most powerful marketing tool an extremist could ever hope for because by design social media reflects a narrow world view filtering out anything that challenges our beliefs while constantly validating our convictions and amplifying our deepest fears.”

Among the standards Pritchard called for are buying commercial inventory from places where the content quality is known, controlled, and consistent with a company’s value and working with media outlets that handle editorial comments “in a way that creates a balanced and constructive discourse.”

He suggested that advertisers push for a specific standard of measurement that will take into account viewing across multiple media platforms, such as a digital “tag” that can be placed on all ads, for all formats across digital and TV, and can be used to control ad frequency.

In a move that could rework existing relationships between big marketers and the ad agencies that serve them, Pritchard suggested advertisers take more control in a world that has grown more chaotic. He advised marketers to create in-house teams to handle the purchasing of ad inventory and deciding where commercials ought to run, as well as gather more consumer data independently from third parties.

Pritchard made his remarks just as many of the biggest media companies in the United States have begun to solicit ad dollars in the industry’s annual “upfront” sales season, when TV networks try to sell the bulk of their ad inventory for the coming programming cycle.