A new Procter & Gamble commercial that focuses on race relations has generated more than 7 million views on the internet in recent days, and that number likely will soar even before the ad begins airing on national television next week.
The Cincinnati-based maker of consumer goods such as Pampers diapers (NYSE: PG) generated a buzz on social media with the 2-minute ad, which is titled “The Talk.”
No P&G brands are mentioned or shown. Instead, the commercial features vignettes in which actors portraying black moms have conversations with their children about racial bias.
The advice the mothers share in the ad apparently resonates with many in the African-American community, but it has stirred controversy elsewhere.
Tamara McDaniel, a black blogger, obtained a 1-minute version of the P&G spot and posted it to her Facebook page on July 19 with the simple observation: “I wish I could pretend not to understand this commercial.”
The P&G video has been viewed 4.5 million times on McDaniel’s Facebook page alone, and it was shared more than 170,000 times by her followers.
The ad has also generated many views on “My Black is Beautiful,” a P&G Facebook page that has 2.6 million members and is one of the largest online communities for African-American women. P&G launched the My Black is Beautiful program more than 10 years ago to build its brand recognition by encouraging African-American women and girls.
As of Friday morning, about 1.2 million views of “The Talk” have been logged on Procter & Gamble’s dedicated channels, including My Black is Beautiful on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and P&G Facebook.
So far, views of “The Talk” are all online – across Facebook, YouTube and Twitter. The video has been embedded on many different pages, including those of popular bloggers, so an exact count of total views doesn’t show up in a single place.
In the commercial, one mom tells her young son: “Listen, it’s an ugly, nasty word, and you are going to hear it. Nothing I can do about that. But you are not going to let that word hurt you. You hear me?” The boy nods his head. P&G felt no need to mention “the word” in the commercial.
Another mom tells her teenage son, who holds two drumsticks and is headed to play in a band: “Come home straight after practice. You got your ID? In case they stop you.”
A third mom, seated in a car next to a teenage girl, who is about to pull out of the driveway of a beautiful suburban house as she learns how to drive, says: “How’s your rear-view (mirror)? We’re good? You see? OK. Now, when you get pulled over …”
The girl smiles and interrupts her: “Mom, I’m a good driver!”
“Baby,” the mom replies, “this is not about you getting a ticket. This is about you not coming home.”
The smile fades from the girl’s face, and she says to her mom: “I’m going to be OK. … Right?”
The video depicts “The Talk” across several decades, with the common theme that black parents seek to prepare, protect and encourage their kids as they head out into what can be an unfair world.
As the vignettes end, a written message follows: “Let’s all talk about ‘The Talk.’ So we can end the need to have it.” Then the P&G logo appears onscreen along with an invitation to join the My Black is Beautiful community. The ad closes with the tagline: “It’s time for everyone to #TalkAboutBias.”
Some non-black viewers have lashed out on social media at the commercial’s content – and at P&G – claiming that the ad unfairly suggests that white people are insensitive and police are biased.
Michelle Malkin, an Asian-American blogger and newspaper columnist who is a senior editor at Conservative Review, criticized what she called “Procter & Gamble’s identity-politics pandering.”
She added: “P&G should stand for quality consumer goods, not empty Protest & Grumble that divides more than it unites. If P&G isn’t willing to tackle the full complexity of race relations in 21st-century America, perhaps the company should stick to selling diapers instead of filling them.”
P&G explained its reasoning behind the commercial – and shared a link to it – in a memo to the company’s 95,000 employees on July 24, the day the video officially launched.
“We know bias is a tough topic to tackle, but we believe acknowledging and understanding it allows us all to work together to put an end to its harmful effects,” the executives wrote.
“This video alone is not a complete solution, but an important step in the journey,” they added. “While this focus on bias is from the viewpoint of a black mother, it is just one story – and we know there are many. We will also broaden our efforts to showcase various perspectives over time.”
It’s not unusual for the company to share its latest commercials with employees, including the 10,000 who work in Greater Cincinnati, P&G spokesman Damon Jones told me.
“We communicate with our employees frequently about new initiatives big and small,” Jones said. “We know they want to be informed about what the company and our brands are doing. …
“The theme of leveraging our voice as the world’s largest advertiser to affect change isn’t new,” Jones added. “The intent with many of our efforts is to drive for more equality because that’s good for society and good for business.”
For example, Pritchard, who oversees marketing as chief brand officer, has noted that gender equality is good for P&G because it could generate more sales.
“We can use our voices in advertising as a force for good and a force for growth,” Pritchard previously said. “With equality comes growth, and just the simple fact that women are paid 20 percent less than men for the same job and you inject that into the market and that’s $4.3 trillion worth of purchasing power.”
I reported earlier this year that a Procter & Gamble commercial that promotes gender equality was recognized as one of the most effective marketing efforts in the nation based on viewer reaction.
And the overwhelming response to “The Talk” has been positive, Jones told me.
“We have heard from hundreds of consumers about the timely, relevant messages reflected in the film,” Jones said.
“There are also consumers who have expressed concern that talking about race is divisive,” Jones noted.
Why would P&G venture into a topic such as race relations when the United States seems divided over recent police shootings involving unarmed blacks?
“Our brands and our advertising are a reflection of what is happening in the lives of our consumers,” Jones said. “And as we’ve talked to black moms in particular, bias is an issue that is top of mind for them. And we felt we had a unique opportunity to reflect it in a genuine and authentic way.
“We believe strongly in the power of dialogue,” Jones added. “Dialogue creates understanding, and understanding creates real, lasting change. We also know that dialogue alone is not a solution, but an important step in the process – and an area where we can help.”
The commercial was created for P&G by the ad agency BBDO New York. It was directed by Malik Vitthal of the Corner Shop.