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Control your content
Procter and Gamble doesn’t just produce Tide detergent, Gillette razors, Pamper diapers, and dozens of other CPG brands.
It also produces TV.
In fact, P&G launched its own production studio, P&G Productions, in the 1930s. Its ownership of leading TV serials like As The World Turns, which carried advertising for several of P&G’s soap brands, gave rise to the phrase “soap opera.”
P&G may have helped invent TV advertising. It’s produced a steady stream of shows, movies, and advertisements over the past 70 years.
But as it adapts to today’s more complex digital ecosystem, it’s faced some recent struggles.
The company (which is the world’s largest ad spender) has repeatedly clashed with YouTube over the placement of P&G ads alongside objectionable content. It even boycotted the website through much of 2017. It’s also on track to slash over $1.1B in ad agency and production costs.
Clearly, digital video is a much wilder west than the company-owned soap opera studios of yore.
Procter & Gamble strikes back with theSkimm
As P&G seeks to gain more control over its video advertising, it’s reaching out to new partners.
Among other moves, this week P&G announced plans to sponsor a new video series in partnership with leading journalist Katie Couric and digital media startup theSkimm. The series will profile high-achieving women.
TheSkimm aims to help millennial women keep up with the news. Its free daily newsletter reaches 7M+ subscribers, and it’s raised $28M from investors ranging from Tyra Banks to Google Ventures to 21st Century Fox.
The next-gen soap opera?
TheSkimm partnership may be a drop in P&G’s $10.5B annual marketing budget, but it highlights two major themes in CPG marketing today.
1) Digital caution
By sponsoring its own content — harkening back to the old the soap opera model — P&G mitigates the risk of unsavory ad placements on YouTube or other platforms.
As P&G CMO Marc Pritchard put it while discussing the theSkimm deal, “what we should be doing is working with content providers that are right for our brands from the very beginning.”
Other unexpected brands have also been jumping onto the content creation bandwagon.
Mattress startup Casper and co-working startup The Wing both have print magazines, for example, while coffee brands like Blue Bottle host educational events.
2) Gender politics
Big consumer companies are facing new pressure to support women, as leaders like Nike face fire for inappropriate actions by executives while startups like Boxed decry the “pink tax”.
By partnering with theSkimm, P&G can reach a largely female audience, and by profiling high-achieving women in its video series, it can frame itself as an advocate for gender equality.
More concretely, P&G also recently discussed hiring more women ad directors and supporting women-owned businesses in South Asia, among other moves.
P&G isn’t only focusing on women in its quest to improve gender relations: its new diaper ad features men, including John Legend, taking an active role in child care. Competently, no less! (Contrast it to this campaign).
Beyond theSkimm, other VC-backed media platforms could help CPG brands move into content production. Startups worth watching include:
Goop — the Gwenyth Paltrow-led media and lifestyle platform has raised $70M from Lightspeed Venture Partners and others (and seems to be weathering controversy around its questionable health advice)
Refinery29 — the women-focused digital media platform has raised $126M from Stripes Group, First Round Capital, and others
The Athletic — a subscription-based sports news platform with $28M in funding
Toutiao — this leading Chinese news app has raised $3.1B