Lessons for creative leaders #1 – authenticity

by | Jul 10, 2019

Authenticity is key if you want your teams to buy into your vision and leadership.

“This was a profound and painful moment. The pain and disappointment because of those people I let down. I asked myself, ‘Do I slink away or step up?’ I decided to step up.” Marc Pritchard, Chief Brand Officer, P&G

Marc Pritchard is well-know as the Chief Brand Officer at P&G. His session at Cannes this year demonstrates clearly how a leader’s personal experience and story influences, and has a direct impact, on motivation and the type of creative work briefed and delivered. Authentic creative leadership is an ongoing theme I noticed at Cannes Lions this year.

During Hispanic Heritage Month in 2015, P&G laundry brand Tide ran an advertising campaign called #Wash Away Labels, which showed the negative labels Hispanics are often given, such as gangster or drug dealer. The messages were printed using ketchup and washed away using Tide and replaced with positive description.

Tide Wash Away Labels

Pritchard said: “It affected me personally because I’m half Mexican.”

He explained that he was adopted by an English man giving him his last name. However his grandfather’s last name was Gonzalez.

“Imagine the difference between growing up as Nicky Gonzalez vs. Marc Pritchard. Entering the workforce, I suppressed my Mexican heritage for fear of being labeled. I didn’t own who I was because I heard those denigrating terms. I had to come to grips with my own bias and behaviors. I recognized the privilege of being viewed as white.”

Leaders need to open up

Pritchard said that he felt emotional when he first discussed his heritage in public, but that he believes that leaders need to open up, tell their own stories and talk about difficult topics to encourage changes in behaviour and attitudes.

Pritchard was joined in conversation at Cannes by musician John Legend and journalist Katie Couric to talk about how P&G is prepared to take a stand on social issues in order to tackle topics like gender stereotyping and racial prejudice. Many of these biases are so ingrained we’re not even aware of them and don’t think about them on a daily basis Pritchard commented.

“The conversation we’re having now, this is intended to change perspective, to promote introspection, to think about things,” said Pritchard.

The talk shared the P&G spots ‘The Talk’ and the recent follow up ‘The Look’ with the audience at Cannes, both of which aim to tackle racial biases. Find out more about the work at www.talkaboutbias.com

Recounting personal experiences

Whilst the work caused some consternation on first viewing with audiences (who felt that it was an extreme portrayal of real life experience) Legend said he recognised the portrayal in the advertising campaigns as honest, and described his college experiences at the University of Pennsylvania.

“Black students at the school would feel sometimes that both the university and city police would treat us like we were imposters if we were in that area,” said Legend.

On a lighter note, the group shared Legend’s ad for Pampers, tackling male/female stereotypes in relation to parenting and celebrating the bond fathers have with their kids.


  • Being your authentic self and telling your story as part of how to be a great creative leader is on the agenda on our popular Creative Leadership programme. Contact lucy@nowgocreate.co.uk for the prospectus and see more information here.


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