Reality appears to have finally arrived at Procter & Gamble, the world’s largest marketer, whose $10 billion annual ad budget has hurt the company’s margins.
P&G said it would lay off 1,600 staffers, including marketers, as part of a cost-cutting exercise. More interestingly, CEO Robert McDonald finally seems to have woken up to the fact that he cannot keep increasing P&G’s ad budget forever, regardless of what happens to its sales.
He told Wall Street analysts that he would have to “moderate” his ad budget because Facebook and Google can be “more efficient” than the traditional media that usually eats the lion’s share of P&G’s ad budget.
- UPDATE: Facebook cited Procter & Gamble’s advertising in its IPO filing.
This is coming from the man who increased P&G’s adspend by a staggering 24 per cent over the two years through October 2011, even though sales rose only 6 per cent in the same period.
Note that P&G’s revenues were up 4 per cent to $22 billion in the quarter but the company’s costs for sales, general and administrative work were flat.
P&G’s staggering ad budget has become a bit of an issue among analysts. On the call, McDonald and his crew were asked about ad costs three different times. McDonald eventually said:
As we’ve said historically, the 9% to 11% range [for advertising as a percentage of sales] has been what we have spent. Actually, I believe that over time, we will see the increase in the cost of advertising moderate. There are just so many different media available today and we’re quickly moving more and more of our businesses into digital. And in that space, there are lots of different avenues available.
In the digital space, with things like Facebook and Google and others, we find that the return on investment of the advertising, when properly designed, when the big idea is there, can be much more efficient. One example is our Old Spice campaign, where we had 1.8 billion free impressions and there are many other examples I can cite from all over the world. So while there may be pressure on advertising, particularly in the United States, for example, during the year of a presidential election, there are mitigating factors like the plethora of media available.
P&G’s Old Spice campaign is a textbook example of what the entire company should be doing. The problem is that the entire company isn’t doing it. Check out Mr. Clean’s Twitter stream, for instance. Oh, right—he doesn’t have one.
The recent discovery by Bob McDonald that digital media is free comes after the long-delayed launch of Tide Pods, now scheduled for a month from now but with only a limited supply. It was originally planned for July 2011. The ad budget for that campaign is estimated at $150 million and will come from agency Saatchi & Saatchi.
The problem is that while P&G has struggled to get a single U.S. pod out the factory door, several of its competitors have already launched competing laundry pod products.
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