Cannes 2020 - Stepping up as a Force for Good

Creativity as a Force for good

Marc Pritchard, Chief Brand Officer, P&G
Remarks at Cannes Lions Live on June 24, 2020.

The past 100 days have brought clarity to what matters. The role of business in society has been forever disrupted. It is now inescapably clear that we have a responsibility to reinvent ourselves…from brands and companies that are all about themselves, to brands and companies that step up as both a force for growth and a force for good.

On March 11th, we decided that office-based P&G employees would be working from home until further notice due to COVID-19. As the days unfolded, what began as an unsettled feeling turned to certainty. Anxiety turned to resolve. The dots connected.

The mission was clear…we would step up as a force for good. Our Company established three priorities. First, protect the safety of P&G people. Nothing is more important. Second, serve people around the world with our essential health, hygiene and cleaning products. And third, however possible, support communities in need.

These priorities are not unique to P&G, because this was a shared human experience. A collective “time out” for humanity. We all had no choice but to focus on what really matters.

As frontline healthcare workers and first responders fought the pandemic, P&G heroes were among the frontline manufacturing and distribution workers, working around the clock to supply needed products as people rushed to stock up during the lockdown. For our brands, this was a time for humility. We reviewed every communication through the lens of being useful…creating “how to” content such as sanitizing surfaces, shaving for a better mask fit, skin care after wearing a mask all day and cutting hair at home. We offered free laundry services for frontline responders…and virtual childbirth classes for parents. The focus was how to help… because being a force for good is about being useful.

We ramped up efforts to be useful to communities. We expanded existing disaster relief operations to donate tens of millions worth of products, cash and personal protective equipment to families in need through more than 200 relief organizations worldwide. The workers in these organizations are true heroes – helping people in hard-hit cities, towns and villages – selflessly serving with no fanfare or recognition.

Inspired by their selflessness, we made a deliberate choice not to make public proclamations about donations. Being a force for good is about actions, not headlines.

One such action was sparked by Ohio Governor Mike DeWine, who asked what we could do to encourage young people to stay home, stay safe, and practice social distancing. Within days, we launched the #DistanceDance, where TikTok star Charli D’Amelio created an original dance and challenged others to stay home and stay safe. For the first 3 million original videos posted, P&G would donate products to families in need. And it worked. So far, #DistanceDance has been viewed 16.9 billion times, inspiring 3.4 million original videos posted for product donations.

What followed were several more programs to help fight COVID-19 and shine the light on people who needed help and organizations doing the work. These programs were hard work, but many of us had the privilege of working from home. There are many others who do not have that luxury, and whose circumstances led to far greater suffering. That’s because throughout history – during pandemics, disasters, and downturns – equality takes a step back. The people who are the most discriminated against suffer disproportionately. Crises like COVID reveal the cracks in society…and we cannot let those inequalities widen. In fact, now is the time to accelerate efforts to address the significant inequalities that exist…such as gender inequality.

We developed a film called Choose Equal to raise awareness of ongoing gender inequalities and inspire action and donations through our partners at TIME, Global Citizen, and Seneca Women. 75% of workers on the frontline are women…who experience the majority of job losses…and who bear the disproportionate burden of work in the home – especially women of color. Instead of setting gender equality aside during the crisis, the call to action is to choose equal as we go forward…for an equal future.

We’re also stepping up for other hard-hit communities.

Another P&G film, Estamos Unidos, was created for multiple benefit events helping the 80% of U.S. Hispanic adults who have jobs outside of their homes. This effort was personal, because my father, who was Mexican American and worked in a hospital, took me to migrant farmworker towns in Colorado to provide healthcare services. Decades later, there are still no healthcare systems for far too many Hispanic families. So, we’ve united companies behind a movement founded by Claudia Edelman called the Hispanic Star…because when Estamos Unidos, we can make a difference.

There’s one community that continues to suffer the most. Black Americans are up to 340% more likely to die from COVID-19. We created a film called Circumstances for BET’s Saving Our Selves benefit to shine the light on the inequalities that disproportionately affect the Black community.

And as you know, it got worse.

Ahmaud Arbery. Breonna Taylor. George Floyd. Rayshard Brooks. You’ve heard these names, and many more…and they need to be said over and over, so we never forget, and so we create change.

The scourge of racism is not new. It has plagued America for 401 years. It exists everywhere…and cannot continue. Now is the time for us all to step up for equality, justice, and action. But what do we do?

People are past words, feelings and statements. They want to know what brands and companies are doing. They want sustained actions that make a difference. By sharing what P&G is doing so far, we hope these steps will be useful as others continue on their own journeys.

Start by taking time to learn. Learn about the history of race and racism and how it has shaped the United States and impacted people – especially Black Americans. Learn about how systemic inequalities have developed and been institutionalized. Learn about the assumed advantages or immunity granted to people in the white community which often go unrecognized. Learn about how the Black community faces chronic trauma, fear and anxiety.

To help, we re-released The Talk, which shines the light on the conversations that Black parents have with their children to prepare them for what they will inevitably face.

We’re all familiar with “talks,” but not this kind, which is a universal experience of being Black. Taking time to learn about these experiences helped me realize how deeply engrained the problems of race are in society. But like anything, the more we know, the more we can find ways to help make change.

Take time to reflect. Think about your own experiences when it comes to race and equality. How have you been affected? How is that different from those around you? We also re-released The Look to shine the light on the bias and racism Black men face every day.

Take time for conversation. These films spark conversation, which leads to understanding. Understanding leads to empathy. Empathy leads to action.

Most important…take action. At P&G, we’ve accelerated plans to continue to support equality. We established a fund along with a resource site, called Take on Race, building from an initiative we established last year to drive collective efforts that advance racial equity. But the deep problems of systemic racism and inequality have been institutionalized over centuries…and will not be solved unless the white community steps up to help. Many are willing, yet frozen, uncertain of what to do, having avoided issues or never dealt with what is now inescapable. That’s why we created a film called The Choice…to help encourage the silent majority in the white community to step up and get started.

How we use our power is a choice, and as the world’s largest advertiser – with broad reach – P&G has a responsibility to step up. Here are some key steps from the racial equality roadmap for our brands:

  1. First, we’re accelerating systemic change to achieve representation that fully reflects the world in which we live – including representation of the Black community and all people of color – throughout the entire creative supply chain – among brands, agencies, and production crews. We’re starting with ourselves in the U.S., declaring an aspiration to achieve 40% multicultural representation within P&G. We’re making solid progress, but we’re way short within our agency teams, and nowhere near where we need to be on production crews. The goals are clear, and will require further interventions in hiring, training, pipeline development, tracking and accountability.

  2. Second, we’re accelerating buying system changes to significantly increase investment in Black-owned or operated media companies, agencies and marketing suppliers. Economic investment and growth in Black enterprises is good for the Black community and for the larger economy. We’re working directly with a variety of Black-owned or operated businesses and partners to make necessary interventions and ensure sustained economic investment.

  3. Third, on brands, we’re conducting a comprehensive review to ensure all of our advertising and content accurately and respectfully portrays Black people – and ALL people. This is something we’ve started and will expand using ANA’s CIMM measure to hold ourselves accountable. Advertising affects perceptions, and we have a responsibility to ensure those perceptions are always accurate and respectful in order to eliminate bias and promote equality.

  4. And fourth, we’ve initiated a comprehensive review of all media channels, networks, platforms, and programs to ensure that the content on which we advertise accurately and respectfully portrays Black people – and ALL people for that matter – and that we are not advertising on or near content that we determine is hateful, denigrating or discriminatory. Freedom of expression is a right, but civility is a responsibility, and we’re working with media providers and platforms to take appropriate systemic action. Where we determine our standards are not met, we will take action, up to and including stopping spending, just like we’ve done before. P&G is not new to this. In fact, today there are hundreds of programs and thousands of digital channels and sites where we do not advertise because they don’t meet our standards.

Our goal is to improve the quality of content where we advertise for the long term. As always, we will work collaboratively and directly to achieve this goal. We fully support freedom of expression and discourse across a wide spectrum, but as in advertising, the words and images in media programming and content matter, and we are holding ourselves and all providers – broadcasters, publishers, and digital platforms alike – to a high standard of quality and civility in order to eliminate bias and promote equality.

These steps represent systemic changes we are making to achieve racial equality. We’ve made progress over the years, but we’re still not where we need to be. We know where we are…we know what we must do…and we will not stop.

The last 100 days have brought clarity to what matters. Our roles have been forever disrupted. We have a responsibility to step up and use creativity for good…to be useful. We have a responsibility to use our power to act. We have a responsibility to use our advantages and privileges – deserved or not – to dismantle systemic inequality. Let’s all step up as a force for growth and a force for good, to help create an equal, just and better industry…and a more equal, just and better world.