Attending the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity is not a relaxing week for anyone—especially Marc Pritchard, the chief brand officer of Procter & Gamble, the world’s biggest advertiser and parent company of Tide, Always, Pantene and Olay, among many others.
At the end of his busy week, Pritchard said down with Adweek to discuss his takeaways from this year’s Cannes Lions, the relevance of the event today, how P&G is adapting to a changing advertising world and what he’s excited about coming out of Cannes.
Adweek: There’s a lot of talk of what is Cannes’ place in today’s marketing world. Do you think it’s still a relevant event for the industry?
Marc Pritchard: It is absolutely a relevant event. This is the epicenter of creativity, and every year, all the greatest creative minds in the world descend on Cannes. It creates the opportunity for creative connections that you could never make in any other place.
We brought a contingent and their job is to come here and immerse themselves, get educated and get inspired. And that’s exactly what has happened—it happens every time. We have been really encouraging ourselves as well as the industry, for that matter, to reimagine creativity and think about it in such a way that it could reinvent advertising as we know it by merging the ad world with the world of film, journalism, music, comedy and technology.
With each passing year, there is more and more of a brand presence at Cannes. Do you think that’s a good thing? And how has it changed the dynamic?
I think what has happened is brands are stepping up to take a greater degree of control over their brands and the creative experience for consumers. When brands can come here and engage with great creative minds, they can come up with new ideas that they wouldn’t otherwise have done. That’s what we encourage our team to do: Come here with your creative partners, come here with your agency partners and create new partners. We announced several new creative partnerships just this week with Arianna Huffington’s Thrive Global, with John Legend, with the Saturday Morning collective and with GLAAD. We really use this as an opportunity to create new relationships and to renew and enhance existing ones.
What’s been your experience at Cannes this year, and what insights are you taking away from the week?
The things that I’m most excited about when I come here is this whole idea of the collision of creative worlds that is producing a new abundance and renaissance of creativity. That’s been very interesting because what you see now is work that reflects brands’ points of view, brands doing good and brands even entertaining.
On the main stage panel, we started with the SK-II work with John Legend, James Corden. … It was very entertaining and it was wall-to-wall SK-II. That’s a great example of a number of worlds coming together to create something that is so good that people look forward to the next time the brand puts something out there.
How do you think that the industry needs to change, and do you think that what’s happening at Cannes this year is sort of reflecting that need?
What’s happening now is consumer viewing habits are changing then because they’re moving toward OTT platforms where there are no ads at all and there’s new technologies that are emerging. It’s one of the reasons why we have made the decision that we’re going to create these new creative partnerships with the likes of John Legend, Arianna Huffington, Katie Couric and Queen Latifah, because that allows us to do is to create creative work that can show up on these OTT platforms and engage consumers in a way that may not be like the traditional ads that we have been doing before.
We’re also accelerating our efforts in new technologies like virtual reality, augmented reality and mixed reality. In the Life Lab [activation at the Palais], we had a VR experience associated with “The Look,” which was the film we did that [aims to] change perspective on race, to help create new experiences and new levels of empathy. I see that as being very much the future.
Brand purpose and using marketing to take a stand for something greater was the focal point of your main stage panel. Do you feel a real responsibility leading marketing for the world’s biggest advertiser to use marketing in that way?
Absolutely. We view it is our responsibility to use our voice in advertising as a force for good and a force for growth. And that’s why we have partnerships with people, agencies and organizations that share our values and are very creative. Our jobs are to do this because we have such a pervasive impact with our advertising.
When you do those ads, how do you make sure it’s not just creating awareness, but you’re actually taking action, too?
I’ll give you two examples. Always has had “Like a Girl,” which of course … changes the meaning of “like a girl,” and now they have “End Period Poverty” about the problem of up to as many as 20% of of young women in even developed countries missing school because they can’t afford female protection while they’re on their periods. So what Always does is when you buy a product, we donate pads. That’s action.
The Gillette ad “We Believe” was about role modeling good behavior for the next generation. That was accompanied by a major donation to the Boys and Girls Clubs of America. It was followed by giving grants to more than 20 men doing good things for the community and shining a light on their work. Having that follow-through line, so to speak, of action is an important part of this work.
Coming out of this week, how do you think what’s happened at Cannes will shape the next year in marketing? What are you excited to see?
What I’m hoping to see is a new renaissance of creativity. I hope to see that we see this integration of the ad world with these other worlds to create new levels of creativity beyond … what has been traditional advertising to engage people in experiences that are useful, interesting and entertaining in order to accelerate growth.