NEW YORK: Has CPG giant Procter & Gamble and the ad industry made progress on diversity, equity and inclusion. Yes, but chief brand officer Marc Pritchard is not satisfied.
"Yes, [there has been change], but not nearly enough," he said during an Instagram Live conversation on Monday.
"I think the mindset has shifted substantially. There are commitments that have been made throughout the industry by brands, and they can't go back," he said. "The problem is it hasn't happened fast enough. And the reason why is because there's deeply embedded systemic issues that need to be broken down."
The reflections were a part of a virtual fireside chat about diversity, equity and inclusion efforts in marketing with VMLY&R executive creative director and activist Walter Geer, who this year invited Pritchard to talk openly about P&G's efforts.
Geer has said that P&G, as the largest advertising spender, has the power to hold agencies accountable for their diversity commitments by refusing to work with non-diverse teams.
To combat systemic issues, Pritchard said P&G has launched efforts to educate employees and create a diverse talent pipeline. Among them, the company’s CEO has pledged to work directly with its executive talent council on plans to put people of color in executive leadership positions.
Other efforts include auditing and changing its recruitment, development, sponsorship and talent management processes to ensure there are people of color at every stage of advertising. Pritchard said P&G has changed its research methodology to steer away from “rep research,” which he said means “largely caucasian.” He said companies should additionally eliminate the phrase “general market” from their vocabulary.
“[General market] means caucasian market,” he said. “Multicultural marketing is mainstream marketing.”
Reaching its goals has also involved listening to Black and POC employees who have called the brand out.
For instance, Pritchard said that about six years ago, he, P&G CEO A.G. Lafley and then-HR leader Mark Biegger were approached by a group of Black executives in its African Ancestry Leadership Network who questioned the company’s commitment to diversity.
“That was a gut punch for me,” Pritchard said.
That was when the company began to invest in programs like the Queen Collective with actress Queen Latifah and haircare brand My Black is Beautiful. It was also the catalyst that led to P&G’s sponsorship of the Cincinnati Music Festival, which was considered one of the most multicultural festivals at the time.
He added that P&G has had several “fishbowl conversations” in which employees of color from inside and outside the company share their honest thoughts and experiences.
Three years ago, the company also launched an initiative to reach equal representation of female directors after determining it only had 11% female representation behind the camera. It is now at more than 50% in Latin America and 50% in the U.S.
But Pritchard said that while progress has been made, P&G, like other companies, still has a lot of work to do. The best way to achieve goals is simply to get started, he said.
“None of us are perfect. None of us are even close to where we want to be,” he said. “Start internally.”
While he stopped short of saying he would terminate contracts with companies that don’t reach diversity metrics, Pritchard said he has asked for diversity information from agencies.
“What success looks like is that it looks representative of our population in America, which is going to be 50/50 men and women and at least 40% people of color,” he said. “[But] rather than say, if you don't hit [those numbers] by X date, you're out, what I have said is ‘tell me why you aren't there and what do we need to do to change that?’
“I realized that there are deep systemic issues everywhere and it requires systemic change,” he said. “I find people do better when they know they're being expected to deliver and are being held accountable, [but] when you're helping them make progress, because again, nobody's got this thing [figured out].”
Pritchard said that Geer may overestimate the power he has to influence change in the business world. Following the chat, in an interview with PRWeek, Geer said he is “partially satisfied” with Pritchard’s response.
“I [disagree with] his response that he doesn't have [that power],” he said. “He does. He has so much power in what he does but [perhaps] he might have a difficult time putting out that type of ask because [when you do that] other leadership has to be in on it together.”
“The No. 1 thing that affects change at any company is money,” Geer said. “You start losing money, they will find a way to repair the damage and fix it.”
He said P&G has made progress and hopes it continues.
“P&G could set an example for the rest of the world. So what I expect to see is them continue to be vocal in the work that they do and continue to do that work internally and press the vendors and the companies that work with them because through that will come real change,” Geer said.