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.
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.
âWe have a responsibility and an opportunity to use our voice,â 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
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.
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.
âTo be ‘awake’ is to go where the money is,â Galloway said.
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.
But among consumers under 30, 80% viewed the ad positively, Tastad said. For P&G, it was a victory.
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 âegalitarian householdâ 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.
Internally, there is still work to be done.
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.
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 âwoke washâ.
âHe 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.”