How Did P&G Lose Its Way?

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The demise of the once mighty P&G soap empire is absolutely staggering when one thinks about it. In modern American business, I can think of few other examples of the once #1 player in the industry experiencing such a reversal of fortune aside from (1) the near collapse of General Motors a few years ago and (2) last year's Chapter 11 Bankruptcy filing on the part of A&P (which was once America's pre-eminent supermarket chain).

In hindsight, it seemed as if P&G really panicked in the late-70's after they lost their dominance to ABC and Y&R. In response, TPTB decimated many of the core characters and families of their shows in an effort to chase after a young demographic. In the process, of course, all that really happened was that the traditional viewers of P&G soaps left their shows in droves (due to the fact that P&G was not true to the essence of its product).

What really perplexes me is that P&G still has this reputation for being the greatest marketing company of all-time. If this is the case, however, why was the company content to let iconic brands like GL and ATWT just die without a fight? (This would be the equivalent of P&G deciding to all of a sudden dispose of Tide, Crest, Ivory, or Pampers.) What pisses me off the most is that P&G didn't do a damn thing to try and save their soaps at the very end. Contrast this to ABC (which has received so much more wrath from fans than P&G ever has), which is an organization that did a lot more to save their soaps. I just do not get it.

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Posted · Report post

I would say greed was what first started it. They gutted EON because they wanted all their soaps in a block. If they hadn't done that EON might still be around today.

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I agree 100 percent. Edge was a show that killed its competition at 3:30. One Life to Live got decent ratings, yes, but an example of how dominant CBS was in that slot could be found with how NBC did following You Don't Say's ill-advised cancellation in 1969. NBC had to put three different shows in the slot before finally relenting and expanding AW to 60 minutes.

You could argue if NBC had put Somerset at 3:30, following AW, the show may have succeeded. But the rule back then, I believe, was no P&G soaps could air opposite each other.

Why would you take the number 2 soap in the country and switch its time period? Like many people have said, Edge caught a lot of viewers because of its time slot. Men home from work early were drawn to the action stories. Teenagers and younger viewers out of college classes could watch it because they got home from school.

The damn thing that's funny in all of this? You'd think P&G would have learned its lesson... but they did the same damn thing nearly 10 years later to Search for Tomorrow and all but killed it.

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I also think someone at P&G just stopped caring. By the late 90's it was more and more blatant. They just let their soaps die. My guess is someone new or hip may have come in and been ashamed and felt this was an old faded product. Yet they wanted to make sure their products would never live on, and blocked this idea at every turn.

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Mickey Dwyer Dobbin was well known to spend so little time in the studios when she was in charge of the P&G shows. She seemed to always be on a cruise or on a yacht somewhere only to make an occasional appearance to give quotes like Michael Zaslow being a wizened old man who didn't have a place at GL. She didn't help the P&G shows at all.

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Very good Topic. Should we do one for the ABC soaps.

There are or were just three main players in the soap game, P&G, ABC, and Sony

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Easy for ABC: Brian Frons.

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Easy for ABC: Brian Frons.

That's too easy

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Mickey Dwyer Dobbin was well known to spend so little time in the studios when she was in charge of the P&G shows. She seemed to always be on a cruise or on a yacht somewhere only to make an occasional appearance to give quotes like Michael Zaslow being a wizened old man who didn't have a place at GL. She didn't help the P&G shows at all.

I didn't know that.

This is just pathetic. I thought she had a good track record at ABC. But then, the desperate attempts to ABC the P&G shows, especially ATWT, was another nail in the coffin.

Edited by CarlD2

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Posted · Report post

I also think someone at P&G just stopped caring. By the late 90's it was more and more blatant. They just let their soaps die. My guess is someone new or hip may have come in and been ashamed and felt this was an old faded product. Yet they wanted to make sure their products would never live on, and blocked this idea at every turn.

re: 'someone at P&G just stopped caring':

I think that became obvious when Ed Trach retired, Ken Fitts came on board, then MADD took over. I remember some of the gossip mid-1990s pointing at Ken Fitts as one of the core problems, as an exec who could have cared less about the P&G soaps (unlike Ed Trach). And I think that was also strongly hinted in the press hailing MADD's arrival and rolling out the red carpet. They figured surely she'd be a strong voice who'd fight for the shows as she seems to have done for ABC Daytime. She certainly was a visible presence--I remember an extensive Q&A session with the fans in 1996 back when TV Guide had boards--but in the end, her ideas and decisions didn't serve the shows' best interests.

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Sometimes I actually think that MADD was brought on to end the shows, and they offered her a big golden parachute to just keep running them and slowly siphon off the audience, until nobody cared anymore, or at least a small portion of the audience would be left and would not hurt PG's bottom line.

Agreed, the end started in the late 70's when P&G tried to get rid of the shows identies in an effort to modernize their shows. However, can you blame them, for the first time in 20 years their flagship soap, ATWT fell from number 1, and fell big, I think with the Dobsons there it was no 7 in the ratings..(would love to see ratings from that time from when ATWT started slipping) ATWT went from carrying CBS to Y & R doing it, and General Hospital shot to number 1, and all the sudden attention focused on soaps from main stream press, and the soap press going on about how Nixon and others were being "relevant," and youth full as opposed to the traditional soaps, I can see them jumping the gun. Unfortunatley they went about it the wrong way.

I would argue that ATWT badly needed to be updated, when the Dobson's got there the whole show was full of middle aged people (I remember Colleen Zenk gave an interview that at 25 she was the youngest contract cast member) and some stories, like Grant/Lisa was going on and on and on (cant figure out why the Dobson's choose to continue on with that.) They just threw the baby out with the bathwater...ATWT could have been updated and not lost its identity at all, just like all the rest of the P & G soaps did (I think Edge fared better as it was not a traditional soap the updating didnt seem as disjointed.)

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I always end up thinking of the stories that went on for years and years about how P&G wanted rid of AW. Looking back now I am amazed it stayed on as long as it did. I wonder how much of it was down to NBC still wanting to try.

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I think we should make a list of which P&G shows could/should have lived on longer had P&G and/or CBS not interfered with timeslots that were already proven to be working... Some of you more savvy soapers can list 'em better. The two that come to mind first are when they switched The Edge of Night from its late-afternoon timeslot in order to put all P&G shows in a block together. The other one is moving Search for Tomorrow from its lunchtime timeslot.

Also, although Love of Life wasn't a P&G soap, didn't a timeslot change also seal its fate, too?

Edited by Gray Bunny

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I'd always like to know what Kenneth L. Fitts and others at P&G were thinking when they decided to flip around management for the three shows there in 1995. Such an epic failure, Fitts and everyone else was fired a year later.

Edited by soapfan770

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Also, although Love of Life wasn't a P&G soap, didn't a timeslot change also seal its fate, too?

Yes. CBS moved Love of Life to 4pm in April 1979. Didn't even last a year after the timeslot switch.

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