Dialogue: P&G's Overstreet, Gentile

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Procter & Gamble, which with the establishment of P&G Prods. in 1949 was one of the first advertisers to understand the value of producing its own entertainment to market its brands, today uses strategies ranging from basic product placement to the development of original TV series to connect with consumers.

One of its latest initiatives was the airing of four interstitials during an hourlong "Poetry Moments" special on TV One last month to support its My Black Is Beautiful marketing campaign. P&G hired its own poets to deliver spoken-word poems expressing why their "black is beautiful." The vignettes aired during a show that featured spoken word on a range of topics and will run on TVOneonline.com through March.

Myrna Overstreet, who oversees P&G's branded entertainment projects as marketing manager at P&G global branded entertainment, and Pat Gentile, North America TV program manager at P&G Prods. (PGP), recently discussed P&G branded entertainment and production initiatives with The Hollywood Reporter marketing reporter Gail Schiller.

The Hollywood Reporter: What is P&G's strategy in the branded entertainment space?
Myrna Overstreet: We're trying to partner our brands with media and entertainment companies to help connect with consumers in new and relevant ways. We know the media landscape is changing dramatically, and we're thinking about an entire spectrum of ways we can connect with consumers, all the way from product placement to the development of original TV series with ownership similar to the "Home Made Simple" model.

THR: What are some of the most high-profile branded entertainment projects P&G brands have implemented during the past year or two?
Overstreet: Cover Girl has partnered with "America's Next Top Model" over the past several seasons. We integrate Cover Girl as part of the story so the key brand messages are an integral part of the story line. Cover Girl has launched the careers of many well-known models throughout the years, so awarding a Cover Girl modeling contract to the winner is a great fit for the show and the Cover Girl brand. P&G has also partnered with "Survivor" for several seasons, integrating multiple brands as prizes for rewards. This type of integration fits well with the story line while enabling the P&G brands to be the welcome "hero" of the show.

THR: What are some of the original productions P&G has created for its brands?
Overstreet: P&G put together Home Made Simple as a Web site in early 2000 as a place to connect with consumers across our home care brands like Swiffer, Febreze, Cascade, Dawn and Mr. Clean. It was really like an online magazine, an opportunity to give consumers helpful hints and information to make their lives easier. We felt we were connecting with our consumer very effectively, and we decided to take it to TV, so we partnered with Discovery Networks, which produces "Home Made Simple." Late last year, we aired Season 3 on TLC. The brands have been very pleased with the results. The show is in production for its fourth season.

THR: Any other original productions?
Overstreet: Yes. Over time our brands have created some original content, most recently Gillette's "Fast Cars and Superstars," which was a competition reality series. Our brands have created online content, such as HomeMadeSimple.com and BeingGirl.com, which is a place where girls can come together to learn, share, communicate with each other, play games and get free samples of lots of products. Additionally, PGP has created new Web sites like PetSide.com, a one-stop-shop for pet owners, and Capessa.com, which is an online community where women share their inspirational stories through video.

THR: How important is branded entertainment to P&G in terms of its overall marketing mix?
Overstreet: We want to use TV differently. We are exploring new-media models that can help P&G brands connect with the hearts and minds of our consumers. We want to leverage TV to connect with consumers in an engaging and positive way where our brands are a welcome part of the consumers' entertainment experience. We want to partner with the entertainment industry to entertain the consumer, not interrupt her life.



THR: When did you take up your current position? What are your responsibilities and what was your previous position at P&G?
Overstreet: I have been in my current position since January 2007. This is not a new role, but it has evolved over the past several years. I have brought my past experience, which further shaped the role. I am responsible for leading P&G's branded entertainment strategy, and I lead the global center of expertise for branded entertainment which is a core group of branded entertainment experts in different countries who strategize and share knowledge. In my previous role, I led the marketing partnerships between P&G brands and our strategic alliance partners.

THR: How much of its overall marketing/advertising budget has P&G moved into branded entertainment over the past couple of years?
Overstreet: We do not share budget numbers or percentages.

THR: What strategies does P&G plan to implement in the future to get its marketing messages out and noticed by consumers? In terms of branded entertainment, is P&G planning to focus more on film, TV, Web content or original programming, or perhaps all of the above?
Overstreet: I'm sorry, but as a matter of company policy, we don't share our plans for the future. What I can tell you is our goal as an advertiser is to identify ways to reach consumers when and where they are most receptive to information about our brands. Whether it's branded entertainment or the Internet, we focus our advertising choices on whether the programming or venue offers an effective way to reach the target consumer of a brand.

THR: Has P&G's production arm (P&G Prods.) produced any programming for P&G brands other than the soap operas?
Pat Gentile: PGP was incorporated in 1949. It has produced a number of different kinds of programs, including soap operas, movies of the week, beauty pageants, television specials like "Circus of the Stars," Ice Capades and the People's Choice Awards. PGP continues to produce the People's Choice Awards, "Guiding Light" and "As the World Turns."

THR: Is P&G's production arm planning to create any new programming for P&G brands? Does it integrate P&G brands into any of its shows?
Gentile: While I can't comment specifically on future initiatives, I can tell you that Procter & Gamble Prods. exists to create engaging content that enables our brands to reach their consumers and make meaningful connections with them. So, essentially, PGP will continue to create new content that is relevant to our brands and their consumers.
Overstreet: Our brands are always included in the People's Choice Awards in lots of different ways, such as vignettes, during commercial time or relevant in-show integrations. For example, a beauty brand might choose to do backstage makeovers.

THR: Does P&G have an advantage over other advertisers by having an internal production company?
Gentile: We believe that PGP is a competitive advantage for the company and its brands. Our long history of creating engaging content has enabled our brands to reach their consumers when they are most receptive to our brands' messages.
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