As the world's biggest marketer hunts for the next media revolution, it's rediscovering the oldest medium of all.
Procter & Gamble Chairman-CEO A.G. Lafley last week told analysts that P&G is "reallocating investments from parts of the communication plan that aren't working as hard for us to parts ... that are." What he didn't add is that print is the workhorse carrying a larger load.
Armed with sophisticated marketing-mix models and confronted by a growing array of new-media choices, P&G is realizing it's oversubscribed to TV, and is pouring more money into print. TV as a share of its measured media fell 2.9 points to 69.3% in the first half of 2006-below 70% for the first time since 2001 -- according to TNS Media Intelligence data analyzed by Advertising Age. You might assume that meant the marketing leader was betting bigger on digital media, but that's not the case.
Reduced TV spending
As it reduced TV spending, P&G hiked spending on national magazines 22.3% and outlays on all print 23.9%. The medium now commands 28.2% of P&G's $1.6 billion first-half outlay, up 3.5 percentage points from a year ago.
The move mirrors a similar trend in last year's numbers compared to 2004. But it also follows a period since 2001 when P&G under Mr. Laflley roughly doubled overall measured-media spending to $3.4 billion annually and TV led the way.
P&G isn't about to let go of its huge spending edge over rivals just yet. Nor is it giving up on TV; outlays on the medium are still up 4% in the first half. But the company is tracking ROI better.
Most P&G brands are now in their second or third years of using marketing-mix models extensively, and that's generally the time by which marketers who use models to fine-tune media plans generally have made the biggest reallocations they're going to make, said Mike Hess, director-global and consumer insights for Omnicom Group's OMD.
Olay and Pantene
Though P&G has shifted some funds to the internet, online remains a paltry 1.4% of P&G's media outlay, up from 1% last year and 0.5% in 2004. The increases are led essentially by three brands: Prilosec OTC, Gillette and Herbal Essences. The shift to print is far more broad-based, though, focused heavily so far this year on P&G's big-spending beauty brands, Olay and Pantene.
P&G also has continued to do more direct marketing, with the second big double-digit increase in as many years for its fiscal year ended June 30. But most of that shift is going toward e-mail programs that have little or no media cost, said John Cummings, whose DBM/Scan service tracks database-marketing programs by package-goods marketers.
Overall, P&G mailings and e-mailings increased 48% to 469 in the 12 months ended in June, following a 35% increase the year before, he said. As a whole, the package-goods and drug marketers he tracks boosted mailings and e-mailings 32% in the year ended in June.
A P&G spokeswoman declined to comment on specifics of media allocation but said, "It really depends on the needs of the brands and where their consumers' interests are."
Pricing weighs heavily in any marketing-mix or ROI analysis, Mr. Hess noted. And P&G's shift this year may be accentuated by delivering on its promise to wring cost savings from its acquisition of Gillette Co. Since that deal closed last October, it was too late for P&G to use its newfound clout in the 2005 upfront. But it could use its muscle to negotiate new print deals immediately.
It's impossible to know how much of P&G's increase in measured print advertising represents flexing muscle to get more ad pages for its dollar, since TNS data is based on rate cards rather than contracts.
But beyond pricing, many marketers are coming around to see more value in magazines, if not newspapers, said Rex Briggs, CEO of Marketing Evolution and co-author of the ROI tome "What Sticks."
20 cross-media studies
A recent analysis of 20 cross-media studies found magazines the most consistently successful parts of the media mix, he said in an e-mail. "That's not to say that marketers shouldn't keep innovating and working to make digital and other new advertising forms a successful part of the mix. But in their race to embrace the new, they would be remiss to underleverage magazines."
For marketers using marketing-mix modeling, shifting to media where they spend almost nothing or relatively little generally yields better returns, Mr. Hess said. What they don't know at first is how much more they can plow into a medium before they hit diminishing returns there, too.
P&G Not Alone P&G's move to print has been mirrored by rivals that use marketing-mix models too, including Unilever, Clorox and Johnson & Johnson. And some of them have made far more dramatic shifts.
Unilever last year cut TV in favor of print. TV as a share of the marketer's media budget fell below 50% (to 45.1%) for the first time in decades. Print climbed 12 points to 37.7%.
But Unilever backtracked in the first half of this year, taking advantage of a softer 2005 TV upfront market. Print fell five points to 32.7% of the budget as TV rose more than 18 points to 63.5%.