December 29, 2023

5 secrets spilled by P&G’s Grace Whitman

Christian Jaekle

Marketing Director

If you missed all the insights and antics from our podcast featuring P&G Senior Brand Director Grace Whitman – tap here. If you’d rather digest it through the magic of the written word, keep on reading. These are our five most significant takeaways from the Queen of CPG herself.

Rushing the brief will come back to bite you

Time spent perfecting a brief is never wasted. Grace would rather have 5 months to craft a creative brief than 18 months of back and forth with the agency and a final product that misses the mark. On top of this, Grace emphasizes that putting a little extra TLC into the way a brief is worded can make it endlessly more inspirational. For example, instead of “Convince consumers Secret deodorant smells good.” Consider, “Convince consumers to pick Secret up off the shelf and give it a sniff.” 

Ask the question everyone’s thinking

No one is an expert in all the things. While in kickoffs, onboardings, or post mortem meetings, be the one who asks, “Why?” Grace emphasizes that the most successful people she works with are the ones who challenge the head-nodding and seek to truly understand. Chances are, not everyone knows how media buying works, what that acronym stands for, or the insight powering an initiative. Clarity is kindness. That’s why Grace encourages new hires who ask these types of questions to never lose this curiosity and courage.

P&G’s agency icks

Oftentimes, agency/client relations have a short shelf life. Grace reassures us that any working relationship will have ups and downs – and it’s good to have people on both sides who are difficult. It just means you’re both have a strong POV and are passionate about solving the problem. Grace appreciates when agencies push back when they’re unclear about an objective or if they receive feedback that doesn’t align with the brief. She’s also happy to regularly take time to check in on the relational aspect of the partnership. Grace also mentions that an agency that’s comfortable with direct communication and healthy conflict is a huge strength. 

When is an agency not a match? When they’re not as excited as the brand to solve the problem. This level of investment takes additional time and resources, but if you’re not enthused by the business challenge, that’s an issue.

Legacy brands vs. DTC brands – which is better?

Grace’s expertise stretches from legacy brands like Secret and Old Spice to DTC darlings like Native. How do these brands inspire each other? DTC brands often spark product and messaging innovation, while legacy brands have a rich heritage that often sets the playbook for the category. Additionally, DTC brands have lower stakes and can deploy 100s of ads to see what sticks, while legacy brands often demand more polish via big-budget productions that are guaranteed to get your attention. Grace draws inspiration from her DTC background to challenge what’s expected from Secret’s 75-year history.

A brief should be like a contract

Getting the brief right and everyone aligned to it is the easiest way to reach the brand objective. When writing briefs, Grace likes to put herself in the agency’s shoes, asking, “What would the agency want to know before they get started?” She also likes to sprinkle in helpful political context – such as what the VP thinks, what’s worked in the past, and what’s never worked for the brand. Providing this context upfront can prevent agencies from receiving executional feedback – every agency’s nightmare. It’s not the client's job to tell agencies to move copy and boost the volume. Their job is to trust their partners to do amazing work that aligns with the contact (the brief.)

Pretty juicy, huh? If you enjoyed this lil write up we recommend giving the full episode a listen here. Plus, you’ll learn all about Grace’s choir career and witness her live reaction to P&G no longer offering frozen yogurt in their lobby. It’s a can’t-miss, IMO.

See ya next month 👋

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Part interview, part therapy, part Price Is Right, the Question Everything podcast puts your favorite CMOs and thought leaders in the hot seat. That means while they're facing off against our game board, you'll learn from the successes and failures of the best in the biz who were daring enough to be curious.

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