John Fix

Two years after his headline-making first appearance at the Radio Show, Procter & Gamble’s John Fix returned to the conference stage and offered an update on how the world’s largest advertiser is using radio. The medium delivers much needed reach for the consumer packaged goods giant, Fix said in what he called a “cheering session” for radio. But he’s still figuring out how it works and there are a couple of other requests he has of the industry.

In his first Radio Show appearance in 2017, Fix, a Senior Media Analyst for P&G, sent reverberations across the industry when he said the company would increase its new plan to spend on radio. “We are spending more and you’re going to see more in the next couple of quarters,” Fix said then.

He wasn’t kidding. The CPG behemoth has since become one of radio’s biggest advertisers.

On Thursday afternoon, in a follow-up “fireside chat” with Nielsen Audio Managing Director Brad Kelly, Fix explained why the company returned to radio after shunning it for decades. “Two years ago, I was in the North American Media Group and I asked the question as a media data analyst, ‘Why is CPG not in radio?’”

P&G then tasked him with figuring out the medium. Fix said he “called everyone.” After talking with all the major radio broadcasters, he ended up in a dialogue with Kelly. “By the time I got to Brad I was ranting and raving: ‘I don’t understand why it is so hard for me to figure out where the role of radio should be,’” he recounted to the Radio Show crowd.

It was radio’s reach that attracted P&G back to radio. As the manufacturer of products that consumers use every day like toothpaste and toilet paper, P&G wants to speak to everyone, not a narrow target. But back in 2017, Fix warned that the medium would still need to deliver results to remain part of its media plan.

Based on its current position as a Top 5 radio advertiser, it appears radio delivered the goods. “We are a big company and we went from 0 to 60 miles per hour pretty quickly,” Fix said. He now feels “vindicated in a sense” by that move, he said in the 2019 Radio Show session. In 2017, he asked the radio industry to “sell” him on what it had to offer and provide data so he could show those P&G brands investing in radio for the first time in years “that there would be a way for them to know whether or not it worked.” Fix said radio embraced the CPG industry and he pointed to how the industry has since evolved by offering data and attribution. Adding radio data into media planning tools like Nielsen Media Impact has made Fix “feel better” about P&G’s radio investment.

Did It Work?

So, two years after pressing on the radio accelerator, did it work? “I don’t think I’ve concluded that,” Fix said. “Despite our scale I think it’s safe to say we’re still testing it” and it will still be a while before the data-obsessed company knows for sure. “We do know that advertising works. We do know that we can buy radio and see a good result as it goes to our reach.”

Fix called his chat with Kelly “a cheering session” for radio and said he has gotten a lot of what he asked of radio two years ago. And he agreed when Kelly suggested the company wouldn’t be a top five radio advertiser if radio didn’t work. But there’s still more work to be done and some unanswered questions, Fix said.

As “the radio guy” in his marketing group, Fix said he sometimes gets chided by others at P&G. “What’s hard for me as a radio advocate is I don’t know what the water cooler talk is,” he said. He challenged radio to get excited about things it could coalesce around, such as developing an industry-unifying tentpole event, or uniting around a major cultural event like the recent 50th anniversary of Woodstock. “What is it that you sell in terms of excitement?” he asked. “I mean it delivers; it’s mass reach is wonderful and we’re happy to be part of it. But personally, as the radio guy, I just want to walk in to work one day with a little bit of swagger.”

Fix said he’s still trying to figure out when it’s best to buy national vs. local or network vs. spot radio. And he would like radio to provide regular research as part of a media buy. “I need research that is custom to become customary,” he said. “I can no longer pay $320,000 for someone to tell me how incremental radio is to television. That has to be part of the package.” – Paul Heine