Raising the Creative Bar for TV Ads

Feb 9, 2004  •  Post A Comment

It was just over a year ago on the French Riviera that Procter & Gamble’s interaction with television took its first baby step toward the future.
That’s when James Stengel, P&G’s global marketing officer, went to the International Advertising Festival in Cannes for inspiration to change the company’s on-air commercials and entertainment marketing efforts-efforts that Pam Zucker would champion.
With Mr. Stengel’s blessing, Ms. Zucker, MediaVest Worldwide’s senior VP and agency of record director on the P&G account, put together a competition among all P&G creative agencies for the chance to place an ad on the Super Bowl broadcast-something P&G hadn’t done before. Ms. Zucker thought up the competition as a way to ensure the P&G spot would be memorable enough to justify the cost of such a high-visibility ad.
“Basically, they created this internal competition to raise the bar of creativity,” said Lisa McCarthy, executive VP of Viacom Plus, Viacom’s integrated media advertising selling division. “It wasn’t just, `Let’s be in the Super Bowl.’ The brands had to work on a holistic marketing program.”
As a result, football commentators Joe Theismann and Paul Maguire were heard providing voice-over and play-by-play commentary during a Charmin ad on Super Bowl XXXVIII. The spot had an appropriate tagline: “The Softest and Strongest Charmin for Your End Zone.”
Ms. Zucker’s next unorthodox media buy will be unveiled this spring, when P&G products will somehow be integrated into CBS’s “Survivor.” It will be P&G’s first association with the highly rated show.
Typically, the network allows only one visual product placement in an entire 15-week block of episodes. Occasionally, “Survivor” executive producer Mark Burnett adds an extra visual of a product, such as a can of Pepsi or a Target Stores canopy or a Target T-shirt. But Ms. Zucker was able to shake things up, securing a deal in which about 20 different P&G products will be seen during a single “Survivor” episode.
No one is saying exactly how these changes will manifest, or why Mr. Burnett and CBS allowed them. It’s even a secret within Ms. Zucker’s family. “She won’t tell me,” said her brother, Jeffrey Zucker, president of NBC Entertainment, News and Cable Group, with a laugh.
Even before Mr. Stengel’s epiphany in Cannes, Ms. Zucker was moving into more creative areas with TV program deals.
For P&G’s Pantene Pro-V brand last July, the shampoo linked with a special 30-minute MTV program showcasing young female music talent-another piece of the big P&G/Viacom deal. This was done to aid another P&G agency, the Alliance Group, a Los Angeles-based entertainment marketing division of Grey Global Group’s Mediacom.
Another of Ms. Zucker’s groundbreaking deals springing from the P&G/Viacom pact involved Nickelodeon’s acclaimed “Dora the Explorer” animated series on Nick Jr., the program block that runs Saturday mornings on sister network CBS. Last year P&G tied in three brands, Crest, Pampers and Bounty, to a live 30-city tour. In the lobbies of theaters where the “Dora” event played were exhibits showing kids how to “make a better smile” and keep their teeth healthy. The tour is repeating this year.