To the ad world at large Procter & Gamble appears like a demon
piper, calling the tune and forcing agencies to dance to it until they
The reality is somewhat different. Not only is P&G an unswervingly loyal
and high-paying client but, in deciding to ditch the commission system
in favour of payment by results, it recognises that a new tune can be
music to everybody’s ears. By clinging steadfastly to commission, P&G
found itself not only out of step with the way most other big
advertisers operate but denied access to the best creative
The system that seemed to have served the multinational so well for so
long now looks cumbersome and inflexible in today’s increasingly
competitive and fragmented global communications market.
For one thing, commission can be unfair, with some agencies having to do
lots of work for little revenue while others complacently trouser
maximum remuneration for minimum effort.
For another, it discourages agencies from radical and innovative
When rewards are based on a straight percentage of total media spend, TV
and print campaigns are where the big bucks are, so what’s the point in
recommending direct mail or the internet?
Infamous for always playing it by the advertising rule book, P&G has
belatedly recognised that it is seriously disadvantaged by a system it
has helped to perpetuate.
Lots of creatives would prefer a slow and painful death to tackling a
P&G brief. Meanwhile, roster agencies have been tempted to skew their
resources towards P&G. Their anticipated acquisition of specialist
communication operations to answer P&G’s wider needs suggests the extent
of their enfeeblement by their giant client over the years.
Yet no P&G agency on top of its game should fear this change. On the
contrary, it should be elated at the prospect of having the creative
Campaign has long viewed commission as an outmoded legacy of the ad
industry’s earliest days. P&G may have driven the final nail into its