Procter & Gamble “Widens the Screen” to Show the Diverse Depth of Black Life

By Dominick Fils-Aimé

In his presentation at the ANA's 2022 Masters of Marketing Conference, Marc Pritchard, chief brand officer at The Procter & Gamble Company, declared that the greatest opportunity for business growth is engaging multicultural segments, a market that has over $5 trillion of buying power.

To guide marketers, Pritchard shared seven habits to drive multicultural market growth with a specific focus on serving the Black community. The session focused on creating authentic, inclusive media, and developing resonate programming for brands to market across.

To this end, Procter & Gamble created "Widen the Screen," an expansive content creation, talent development, and partnership platform serving to empower Black talent, creators, and Black-owned and operated media companies, and drive inclusive growth across the media industry.

Procter & Gamble launched its initiative with the release of a short film that debuted at the 2021 NAACP Image Awards. Narrated by actor Mahershala Ali, the film depicts three stories that play on prejudices fostered by the stereotypical representations of Black life in media. It featured young Black teenagers at a convenience store seemingly conspiring to steal, what appeared to be a single mother standing by a bus stop with her young kids, and a man driving toward what could only be assumed to be a shady undisclosed location.

"If you think you know what happens next, ask yourself why," Ali says. "These are the Black stories we've been shown. A narrow view that limits our understanding. But there's so much more to see."

The film's conclusion illustrated how these characters were simply average U.S. citizens. The teens were waiting on their friend to pay for their snacks, the mother was waiting for her loving partner to pick up his family, and the man was driving to a young girl's birthday party.

"This film challenges the bias expectations viewers have about stories and characters often played by Black actors, fueled by the narrow view of Black life on screen", said Pritchard. "By widening the opportunities for Black creators...we widen our view with a more accurate portrayal of the full joy, beauty, and vastness of Black life, and we develop resonate programming for the Black-owned and operated media market.

Procter & Gamble's investment in Black media includes:

The Queen Collective — This was created to open doors for Black women creators and directors, with only eight of 1,447 U.S-produced film directors identifying as Black women and only 33 percent of the top 100 films in 2019 having no Black girls or women in any speaking or named roles. In partnership with Queen Latifah, Flavor Unity Entertainment, and Tribeca Studios, the initiative empowers Black women to tell important documentary stories about various aspects of the Black community.

8:46 Films — This is a collaboration with the Tribeca Film Festival, and SATURDAY MORNING to create scripted stories of joy, beauty, and the vastness of Black life. Each film is told in eight minutes and 46 seconds, the time it took former police officer and convicted murderer Derek Chauvin to kill George Floyd. 

Thus far, 18 films have been made, earning 10 award wins and nominations and have been, or will be, featured in national film festivals and broadcast media platforms such as BET. Moreover, all these films are available for Black-owned and operated media companies, free of charge, creating more programming for brands to advertise across.

Procter & Gamble was also a major partner in the launch of the Stellar TV network, a Black-owned and operated faith-based network, and developed four new TV programs with Allen Media Group, including the Grio Awards for Black Excellence. In all, the brands efforts have a dual benefit of facilitating inclusivity and authentic representation across the media agency while providing resonate content for brands to engage Black consumers.

The views and opinions expressed are solely those of the contributor and do not necessarily reflect the official position of the ANA or imply endorsement from the ANA.

Dominick Fils-Aimé is a manager of editorial and content development at ANA.