credits ESPN’s C’MON MAN! for sparking this semi-regular blog
Campaign reported on an interview
with Procter & Gamble Chief Brand Officer Marc Pritchard, who continues navel-gazing over his ethnic identity.
Pritchard shared that he has a diverse background—his father was of Mexican
descent and his mother was of German descent—which allowed him to pass as
Caucasian throughout his career. The conversation also touched on Pritchard’s pseudo DE&I defender persona, emphasizing that
he has pushed White advertising agencies to diversify their staffs and storyboards. He admittedly declines,
however, to enforce his requests by demanding actual quotas and terminating
relationships with firms that fail to make meaningful and measurable progress. Like
so many in Adland’s exclusive majority, Pritchard presents himself as a bold
advocate—and he even accepts trophies and accolades for his faux
achievements—yet his efforts yield roughly zero meaningful or measurable
results. In short, when it comes to diversity-related pontificating and posing,
Pritchard leans on his White side.
Talk reveals P&G brand chief’s struggle with
took P&G vet Marc Pritchard 30 years to embrace his ethnic heritage. An
Instagram live talk suggested that he's still coming to terms with that
conversation Monday evening served as a proof point for why embracing one’s
ethnicity remains difficult, even for Procter & Gamble’s brand chief Marc
proved himself an able champion of DE&I and one of its most articulate
spokespeople. He’s been hailed for bringing multicultural advertising into the
mainstream and has opened up about his own Mexican-American heritage.
But during a
very candid conversation that took place on Instagram live with host Walter
Geer, executive creative director of experience design at VMLY&R and an
industry activist, one of Pritchard’s responses showed that he is still
struggling with that identity.
through their fireside chat, Geer asked Pritchard about the films P&G
brands have produced that shine a light on racial bias, such as “The Talk” and
“Widen the Screen.” Given that these films have been praised in advertising
circles for their rawness and candor, Geer wanted to know the internal process
for getting to that type of work.
recounted how six years ago, a group of Black executives from its African
Ancestry Leadership Network approached him and questioned the firm’s commitment
to people of color. Their advocacy served as a catalyst for a comprehensive
revamp, in which the CPG giant changed its talent pipeline, recruiting and
employee development, and took other steps to ensure there are people of color
at every stage of its advertising.
At the time,
haircare brand My Black is Beautiful was marking its 10-year anniversary.
P&G decided to produce “The Talk” to highlight the tragedy of young Black
men and women being killed in the United States.
“I can remember
it as clearly today as ever, when I sat around the room, and I was the only
white person in that room,” Pritchard recalled of the film’s screenings. “I was
hearing stories that I’d never heard before and getting insights.”
The comment may
have been more a reflection of ingrained habit than Freudian slip. Still, for
Pritchard to describe himself as white was stunning, considering he had just
spent the last 30 minutes talking about embracing his ethnic background and how
he had (ostensibly) moved beyond the period during which he had to mask his
true identity to advance his career.
His dad, whose
biological father was named Gonzalez, was adopted by a man named Pritcher.
Despite his English surname, Pritcher was also of Mexican descent. His father
married a German woman.
“I had both
Mexican and German heritage, but I could pass as Caucasian. And many times I
also looked very Mexican as well,” Pritchard explained. “So I learned what that
was like. And I embraced that pretty heavily as I grew up, mostly because my
dad was so into the Chicano world. But when I got into my job, I suppressed it
because of fear of judgment, fear of how people might perceive me.”
— shifting one’s mode of speech or dress or hiding one’s personal background or
beliefs as a way to advance in a working world where there are relatively few
executives of color — is all too common in marketing.
Asked by Geer
for the moment when he felt like he needed to “come out and own who you are,
own your ethnicity,” Pritchard replied that it was very late in his career: “It
was more than 30 years in. It was just recently.”
three years ago, at the 2018 AdColor Conference, Pritchard shared his personal
journey to an external audience for the first time. During that conversation,
he related how he came to grips with his Mexican-American background.
actually considered naming me Nick,” he said, recalling a story from his
AdColor speech. “And I used to joke that I could have been Nicky Gonzalez. And
I thought, ‘I don’t think I would’ve made chief brand officer with the name
Nicky Gonzalez.’ So that privilege was not lost on me.”
have reached a new level of personal candor during Monday’s talk. But Geer, who
said Pritchard agreed to their chat after Geer tagged him in a LinkedIn post
earlier this year as an individual with the power to change the entire ad
space, had an activist agenda as well.
He wanted to
use his personal audience with Pritchard to get him to push for more change
among brands that are perhaps fearful of taking the same steps as P&G —
and, in turn, to encourage their agency partners to embrace multiculturalism to
a greater extent.
“Would you be
open to essentially tell vendors even right now that, ‘If you don’t hit these
numbers by this certain date, we will have to reconsider your business with
us?’” Geer asked.
demurred. Nevertheless, he stressed that P&G’s brands are already holding
their agencies accountable.
“When I ask
[agencies] for their [diversity] numbers, that in and of itself is a powerful
step forward because that means I’m watching and I listen and check every time
we get together,” he responded. “I wanted to know, within our agencies, what’s
their diversity profile? Where are they on women, Black, Hispanic, Asian,
Native, Indigenous? At every level in the planning, the account and the
“The reality is
with agencies, what we’ve looked at is, ‘Here’s what we expect. And if we don’t
see it, we start hiring additional agencies and new agencies,’” he continued.
Pritchard said, has made the same commitment internally. After realizing it
only had 11% female representation behind the camera, “We said, ‘We want to be
at 50/50 worldwide.’” P&G discloses on its website that 26% of its U.S.
employee base is multicultural, versus its goal of 40%.
said he’s been frustrated by the slow pace of change. “The reason why is
because there’s deeply embedded systemic issues that need to be broken down.
And that’s where I really want to encourage the industry to keep going.”
stopped short of holding agencies to specific diversity levels, Geer
nonetheless characterized the conversation as a success.
“All in all, it
was a great conversation,” he said on Tuesday. “He was authentic and real. It
showed a broader community of people of all colors that code-switching and
passing is a very real thing.”
The fact that
one of the most powerful individuals in advertising essentially kept his
ethnicity to himself for 30 years and finally came out only three years ago “is
a big deal,” Geer added. “Being able to get to where he is meant him not fully
disclosing his identity to many people who, quite frankly, he said wouldn’t
have allowed him to move further with his organization. That speaks to the
greater problems many of us have in this industry.”