Is it April Fool’s Day already? P&G the darling of Cannes!

The world has gone mad. The world of advertising at least.

When I started at P&G, back in the Victorian era of marketing, the world was as it was supposed to be. We made effective but pretty unexciting advertising. Only ads that proved in quant. testing that they had the potential to build share were aired. We agonized over scene-by-scene objectives. Yes, planning the objective of each individual scene on a storyboard; nothing left to chance. Like this classic for Vidal Sassoon Wash & Go, a brand that I worked on (Remember, "Take 2 bottles into the shower? Not me!"… if you do, you too are an old fart).

Fast forward 20 years. And the headline is:

"Cannes names P&G advertiser of the year"

Yes, that’s right. In June CEO AJ Lafley will pick up the prize at the Cannes Advertising Festival. What a turnaround. For decades creative teams would run a mile when presented with the "opportunity" to work on P&G business. Last year the company won 14 Lions at Cannes, including the coveted Press Lions Grand Prix.

Does this matter? After all, Cannes is about creativity as judged by creative people. Well, I think in the case of P&G it does matter. Here’s why:

1. Creativity + strategy = real power
P&G always had, and always will have, product performance and a business building ethic in its blood. This is the deeply ingrained culture of the company. What it was lacking sometimes was creativity. The Cannes award is another sign that the company is now adding more creativity, producing a potent mix of marketing capabilities. I do think its easier to do it this way, with a foundation of rigour being freed up a bit, rather than the inverse of making a creative culture more data based.

2. Getting the best creative people
As I mentioned, before the best creatives didn’t like P&G. Now, they will be keener to work on it as they get what they crave: creative kudos. P&G will still get the business-building copy it demands, but has accepted that there are different ways to get this. And in a world which is increasingly over-crowded, taking risks and being braver in execution is one way to stand out.

3. Recruitment
In the past, P&G was portrayed as the home of "Proctoids" who mechanically executed predictable marketing plans. Now, when this objection is voiced by fresh new graduates looking for a job P&G can point to the Cannes award as proof things are changing.

For more on one of P&G’s creative moves, the launch of non-cleaning cleaning brand Swash, check out this other post.