In the risky advertising strategy of Procter & Gamble

But in recent years, the company has used its influence as a marketing powerhouse not only to tout its own brands, but also to promote a social message about gender equality. It’s an advertising strategy that comes with risk, but even so, the business isn’t backing down.

P&G has also made an effort to include the transgender community. In June, P&G released its first Gillette ad featuring a transgender man, and in October, the company announced it would remove the Venus symbol, historically used to represent the female gender, from its Always maxi pads in order to include more transgender and non-binary clients. .

It’s a strategy that has won praise for its daring, but has also sparked backlash from critics who want companies to refrain from social commentary.

Nonetheless, Carolyn Tastad, one of P&G’s senior executives overseeing the company’s gender equality initiatives, is championing the cause.

As president of P & G’s North American operations, Tastad oversees the company’s $ 30 billion operations in the United States and Canada. She is also the executive sponsor of P & G’s gender equality program, a role that includes leading initiatives to address gender bias inside and outside the company.

“We have a responsibility and an opportunity to use our voice,” she told CNN Business in a recent interview. “It’s not about lecturing people, and it’s not about telling people how to think.”

Bet on a younger fan base

Socially conscious, or so-called “awake”, advertising is risky for brands for a number of reasons. This can irritate conservative viewers, who may be uncomfortable with the message. And even among progressives, it can trigger accusations of “woke wash”, as viewers question the corporate motives behind the ad.

Meanwhile, taking a bold stand on any issue is especially tricky for large companies, as it can intensify the focus on their own internal practices.

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P&G knew it faced these risks, but in the end, the company decided to give it a go anyway. Scott Galloway, professor of marketing at New York University’s Stern School of Business, called the strategy “smart” because it can help keep P&G products relevant to a new generation of younger customers.

“To be ‘awake’ is to go where the money is,” Galloway said.

Tastad reported external market research showing that around nine in ten consumers say they buy a product because this company was defending a problem that was close to their hearts. Tastad also cited research showing that 65% of Millennials “won’t buy a brand because it’s been silent on a problem it has an obligation to solve.”
Despite early reviews, P&G has said that one of its most controversial gender-related commercials – last year’s “We Believe” Gillette commercial – has paid off as it has managed to attract a younger audience.

The place was not promoting a new razor blade or a new method of shaving. Instead, the ad showed scenes of men insulting, intimidating and harassing women. Then, in direct reference to the #MeToo movement, he said: “Something has finally changed.” It ended with scenes of men ending the fighting, standing up for women, and being mindful fathers.

“Is this the best a man can get?” The ad asked, referring to Gillette’s nearly 30-year-old slogan.

The announcement angered some critics like the broadcaster Piers Morgan, who described it as fueling a “global assault on masculinity” and actor James woods, who described it as a leap into the “men are horrible” campaign.

But among consumers under 30, 80% viewed the ad positively, Tastad said. For P&G, it was a victory.

“The entry point into shaving is usually age 18. At age 18, every young boy is given a Gillette razor. We have a program that offers that,” Tastad said at a press conference. Fortune conference in September. “We had to become more relevant.”

Gina Delio, partner of advertising agency Tag Creative, called the announcement “courageous” and “admirable”, but added: “P&G and Gillette must continue to follow and show the depth of their commitment beyond their advertising.”

More work to do

As P&G Executive Sponsor for Gender Equality, Tastad is responsible not only for external gender-related initiatives such as advertising campaigns, but also for leading the company’s efforts to create an inclusive workplace. It’s a mission that, she says, comes naturally given her upbringing.

Tastad grew up in a small town in Canada in what she describes as an “egalitarian household” which has led her to expect equality in the workplace as well. Her father was a farmer and her mother was a teacher, and they shared the household chores.

She graduated in computer science and joined P&G as an IT analyst upon graduation from college. She held various positions during her nearly 37 years with the company and took the helm of the North America division in 2015, overseeing dozens of brands and over 25,000 employees.

Today, Tastad’s role is to help P&G meet its goals of gender pay equity and 50-50 representation of men and women at all levels of the company.

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Internally, there is still work to be done.

Currently, 47% of P&G employees worldwide are women, but as is generally the case in large companies, the ratio is lower in the upper echelons of management. About 40% of P&G senior executives are women.

While those numbers are below 50-50, they’re higher than five years ago, a sign that the company’s efforts are starting to pay off. P&G has also extended this focus to its supply chain and the external contractors it works with.

In 2018, only around 10% of P&G ads worldwide were directed by women. announced a goal to reach 50% by 2023. Today, more than 50% of P & G’s North American ads are led by women, and globally that number is more than 25%, according to the company.

Internally, Tastad tries to push the company to move faster to meet its diversity and inclusion goals.

When P&G brands take a stand on social issues, it is important that they are genuine, she said, because that is what separates good campaigns from “woke wash”.

“He must be fully integrated into the company, otherwise it does not resonate with him; it seems peripheral [and] detached.”

“It is not enough to advertise,” she said. “It must be the total picture.”

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