P&G debuts ‘The Choice’ in multimillion dollar ad push addressing racism in America

Dive Brief:

  • Procter & Gamble released an ad, “The Choice,” that asks white people to use their position of power in America to actively combat racism, as reported in Adweek. Developed with Grey and Cartwright, a newly formed WPP agency, the creative debuted on the Oprah-hosted CBS special “Where Do We Go From Here” that focuses on the civil unrest that’s emerged following the death of George Floyd while in police custody.
  • The sparse 1 minute and 15 second video nods to the Black Lives Matter movement and emphasizes that white individuals not personally being racist is not enough to create real change. “Now is the time to be anti-racist,” the ad reads, urging viewers to participate in actions that can spread the word to others, such as marching, donating and voting.
  • “The Choice” ends by directing viewers to a section of P&G’s website created earlier this month that provides resources for tackling racism. The ad builds on the marketer’s prior messaging around race, “The Talk” and “The Look,” which also aired during the Oprah town hall and on “Justice For All,” a different CBS special anchored by Gayle King that similarly centers on the current protest movement, per the Cincinnati Business Courier.

Dive Insight:

With “The Choice,” P&G is adopting a different approach to its purpose-led messaging on race, while still aligning the ad with prior efforts that have sparked discussion like “The Talk” from 2017 and “The Look” from last year. Rather than framing “The Choice” specifically around the bias that black people experience, the video implores white viewers to acknowledge the role they play in fighting such prejudice and serving as allies to racial justice causes.

“Being white in America is not needing to state your life matters,” the somber ad reads. “And when your life matters, you have power. Now is the time to use it.”

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“The Choice” arrives as part of P&G’s most concentrated effort yet to combat bias. Damon Jones, P&G’s global communications chief, told the Cincinnati Business Courier the company is enacting a multimillion dollar advertising push that, over the next month, will also include underwriting two films by the Queen Collective on BET, “Gloves off” and “Tangled Roots,” as well as sponsoring a Time 100 Talks virtual event titled “Equality at a Tipping Point.”

Marketing that touches on sensitive subject matter like race has become more common in recent years, but dominated the national conversation in the past few weeks as protests demanding justice for George Floyd and other victims of police brutality surge around the U.S. Other companies have taken a similar line as P&G in spotlighting different forms of racism and spurring more privileged audiences to speak up on the matter.

Nike, which previously waded into the social justice space through ads featuring Colin Kaepernick, was one of the first national brands to release creative around the Floyd protests. The athletic apparel maker’s “For Once, Don’t Do It” spot, created with Wieden + Kennedy Portland, asks people not to “pretend there is not a problem in America” and to confront racism head-on rather than turning away from it. Companies from McDonald’s to Ben & Jerry’s ice cream have since released ads that forwardly address topics including white supremacy and racial violence, taking on a direct tone that’s been largely absent from advertising in the past.

With the current wave of cause-minded ads has come a greater degree of scrutiny from consumers, some of whom view companies as cynically latching themselves on to a particularly sensitive moment. P&G could ward off criticism given its longer history discussing racism and by providing financial support to relevant causes. The company earlier this month made an initial $5 million donation as part of its “Take on Race” fund that includes partner organizations like the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund, YWCA Stand Against Racism and the United Negro College Fund.

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