P&G Waves Baton, Three Agencies Sing Same Tune

09 August 2005

Ad agencies - traditionally defensive of their creative muse and ready to battle any client brash enough to put forward its own ideas - will be aghast at the latest violation of their human rights by the world's highest-spending advertiser, Procter & Gamble.

Having evolved Febreze, a new household odor freshener, Procter has sprinkled the magic formula into other products such as Tide laundry detergent, Bounce antistatic tumble-dryer sheets and Downy fabric softener.

But - and herein lies the snag - each brand is handled by a different P&G roster agency - two Publicis shops Saatchi & Saatchi and Leo Burnett Toronto, plus WPP's Grey Worldwide.

And P&G wants its new killer ingredient to be trumpeted in each brand's ads with a common creative payoff using the same visual and text tagline. A triumvirate of volatile creative feathers waiting to be ruffled, you might think!

As did Nicholas Donatiello, president of San Francisco market researcher Odyssey. "Three big agencies consulting, and agreeing to the same tagline? Now, that's unusual," he opined with masterly understatement.

Then displaying deductive powers which Sherlock Holmes might have envied, Donatiello arrived at a unversal truth: "I guess when you're one of the biggest advertisers in the world, agencies do what you want," he said.

Leo Burnett Toronto creative director Heather M Chambers explained how the Red Sea was parted. "Each brand already had separate campaigns in the works, so working towards something that pulls us all together took an awful lot of coordination," she said.

"For the niche agencies [those targeting African-American, Latino and other specialized markets] the task was even harder; they had to create commercials that fitted a universal theme yet resonated particularly well with a specific market."

Meantime, in the bomb-proof vaults of Cincinnati Edgar Sandoval, Procter's marketing director for fabric softeners expounded the P&G partyline.

"Each brand is a category leader, but few households use all of them," he said. "An integrated advertising effort is a great way to get the loyal Febreze customers to use Tide, Downy and Bounce."

Febreze is also a standalone product for fabrics and pets, whose fragrant chemistry has inspired P&G to new heights of creative nomenclature with brand variants such as Meadows and Rain, Blossoms and Breeze and Spring and Renewal.

Data sourced from New York Times; additional content by WARC staff