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​P&G’s Marc Prichard target of billboard campaign outside HQ

Procter & Gamble Co.’s top ad man, Marc Pritchard, witnessed the impact of direct marketing after a billboard campaign targeted P&G’s corporate headquarters in Cincinnati.

Emblazoned on a billboard along Columbia Parkway, which runs past the headquarters of the maker of consumer goods such as Tide detergent (NYSE: PG), is this message: “Hey Marc, this ad is real.”

The outdoor ad campaign was prompted by Pritchard's recent rebuke of digital-media shenanigans. I reported Jan. 30 that P&G, which claims to be the world’s largest advertiser, is reviewing every one of its agency contracts as part of a crackdown on rip-offs related to digital marketing.

P&G has been devoting about one-third of its annual $7 billion ad spend to digital, but questions persist about how many people are actually seeing such ads, which is defined as viewability.

It’s hard to miss the view of the Lamar Advertising billboard from the P&G headquarters.

“Marc has seen it, and we agree – that’s a real ad,” P&G spokeswoman Tressie Rose said.

Lamar has about 1,400 billboards in Greater Cincinnati, and the company donated a half-dozen of them to convey the Outdoor Advertising Association of America’s open missive to Pritchard about the benefits of such ads.

Not that the message would be obvious to many people driving through town who don’t work for P&G or know Pritchard, the company’s global brand-building officer.

The ad campaign appears to be a publicity stunt to promote billboards rather than a solicitation of P&G’s business. (Ironically, the billboard directed at Pritchard includes a reference to FeelTheReal.org, which is an Outdoor Advertising Association of America website critical of digital advertising.)

“It was to capitalize on the buzz around the speech that Marc made last week,” said Tom Fahey, general manager for Lamar (NASDAQ: LAMR). “And if P&G would like to buy some billboards, Lamar has over 325,000 displays across North America – so we can help them with that.”

To make sure P&G’s 65 or so brands are top of mind when it’s time for consumers to buy, the maker of Head & Shoulders shampoo and other products needs broad media reach to create awareness among all potential category buyers, according to Pritchard, who recently cited search, social, online video, mobile, print and television – but not billboards.

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