Sunday, March 14, 2004

Look Who's Talking: John Pepper

Man with the message

Former Procter & Gamble chairman John Pepper still maintains his Cincinnati ties.
Even after two retirements from Procter & Gamble Co., John Pepper is still at work. Except now, he's in an office at Yale University in New Haven, Conn., where he is vice president for finance and administration at his alma mater. But Cincinnati-based P&G will be at the forefront of Pepper's mind this week when he becomes the seventh former Procter executive inducted into the American Advertising Federation's Advertising Hall of Fame. And Pepper still is often in Cincinnati, raising money for the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center.

JOHN PEPPER, HALL OF FAMER. Did you ever think you'd hear that?

It feels surprising. It feels good. Of course, the answer to your question is no. You know, I never really planned to go into advertising. I was going to law school. ... But I came to love it, for a lot of reasons ... mainly an ability to build brands, a combination of knowledge and creativity.


Oh, there are a lot. Certainly the Folgers campaigns, "The best part of waking up is Folgers in your cup." The effect of that campaign, making Folgers the leader, but also the spirit of it. Some of the Olay advertising, some of the Bounty advertising. The great advertising to me is really what's able to bring a great product into existence, bring a product to life. The other thing great advertising does is direct the future development of the brand. So you come up with Pampers, seeing the world through a baby's eyes.

IS THERE A COMMERCIAL that when you saw it, you winced and said, 'Why did we run that?'

Oh yeah, are you kidding? I can put together a reel of those. Actually, looking at my own reel, if there weren't a few of those, you probably wouldn't have tried enough.

YOU'VE HELPED RAISE millions of dollars for the Freedom Center. Will it be a source of pride for Greater Cincinnati?

I think the Freedom Center is going to be a tremendous source of pride for Cincinnati. I think it's going to be the most important destination Cincinnati has. Particularly important is the character of that destination, a sense of how we can use history to get better today. That's a central global issue that needs no punctuation from me ... all that's going to happen based on what we (museum organizers) do going forward. We certainly have the right to do that and basically the obligation to do it.

YOU'RE WRITING A BOOK about your P&G experiences. Any Pete Rose-style confessions in there?

I don't think they'll rise quite to that level.

Cliff Peale

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