P&G executive to secretary: "Right, take down a memo and send it to Kevin Roberts at Saatchis, Ed Meyer at Grey, Linda Wolf at Leo Burnett and all the other agency bigwigs you can think of."
Secretary: "OK, fire away."
P&G exec: "As part of our Outside/In Plan, we want our roster agencies to be recognised for the top-notch work they create for P&G. Attached you will find a matrix that lists the premier international and national advertising awards. Jim Stengel would like P&G's roster agencies to be proactive in applying for these awards with P&G work."
Of course, I'm at risk of condensing months of careful planning, research and matrix-creating endeavour into a couple of sentences here. But I am at least quoting accurately from the edict from the global marketing officer, Jim Stengel.
Unlike the "side by side", the "demo", the "testimonial", the "torture test" or any of P&G's famous advertising formulas, the memo will come as a surprise to its agencies. P&G, after all, is famous for other things.
It is an academy of marketing that has churned out some of the top business people in the UK. It is admired for its ability to spot and gain competitive advantage. It has indeed made some small strides creatively to make the visual element as important as the product benefits and functions. But P&G as an awards winner? To date, when it has talked of raising the creative stakes it has always been to no other end than the louder ringing of a cash till.
While its rival Unilever has revved up its aligned agencies by appointing creatively led local shops and won awards and grown its business as a result, P&G has been invisible at the major UK ceremonies for years. The last major award I recall it winning was for Head & Shoulders at Campaign's sister title Media magazine's Asian Advertising Awards in Hong Kong two years ago. Hence its agencies tend to employ dedicated P&G creatives who toil away in oblivion, leaving their main creative directors to bigger creative opportunities.
Nonetheless, having recognised so publicly that awards do matter, I hope that P&G will follow up the edict with some action. For starters, it should send the same memo to its own marketers. And, you might ask, why make the appeal now? Does P&G think that awards will encourage the tills to ring louder? Or does P&G think that it will attract better talent to its agencies if awards are part of the game plan? I hope it's a combination of the two, because Campaign's view is that the point of awards is not just to showcase top work, but also to inspire other people to do as well and for other clients to buy high quality ads that deliver results in spades. And that, surely, is in everyone's interest.