Procter & Gamble’s Marc Pritchard on getting partners to adopt industry standards: ‘We’re 40 to 50 percent there’

Procter & Gamble chief brand officer Marc Pritchard said at the beginning of 2017 that the digital ad industry needed to grow up and follow common measurement standards. Halfway through the year, Pritchard said nearly “40 to 50 percent” of P&G’s media, agency and ad tech partners are meeting the brand’s minimum standards.

“The players in the digital industry have stepped up, and there’s progress,” he said. “Hopefully, by the end of the calendar year, we’re near 100 percent.”

Speaking at Cannes Lions during a CMO panel hosted by The Economist, which included Lenovo CMO David Roman and Tommy Hilfiger chief brand officer Avery Baker, Pritchard’s latest stump speech continued his assault against waste and other fraudulent practices in the digital ad ecosystem. Citing studies that suggest only 40 percent of digital ad spend goes to publishers, Pritchard said some tech vendors, which he referred to as “the stop-offs in the middle,” and fraud were to blame.

“Imagine if we take 20, 30 percent of the wasted money and invest it into better advertising and better content,” Pritchard said. “We’d grow more.”

When Pritchard spoke at the Interactive Advertising Bureau’s Annual Leadership Meeting in January, he said P&G would stop spending money on companies that didn’t comply with industry standards for measurement and verification. He’s referring to the Media Rating Council’s standard, which defines display ads as viewable when at least 50 percent is on screen for at least one second and viewable video as viewable when at least 50 percent of the player is on screen for at least two seconds.

“When we have that [as the standard], then you have the transparency to make choices based on the quality of the media, as opposed to someone grading their own homework,” he said.

Roman said the pursuit of transparency can come at the expense of experimentation. If companies don’t experiment with new technology until there are industry-accepted standards, then they won’t experiment at all. Avery said the apparel brand sets aside some money to try out new tech and marketing solutions, even if it doesn’t have “bulletproof” measurement.

“That’s a head fake — the mindset that because it’s new tech, it doesn’t have to adhere to standards is a head fake,” Pritchard countered. “Of course we want to try new things, but before we invest $72 billion [as an industry], we need to know what we’re getting. We can innovate and be able to say, ‘Here’s how many people you’re reaching, how many times you’re reaching them and how much they’re engaging.’ These things are not mutually exclusive.”

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