The US consumer goods giant goes online to make its case against an activist investor.
Procter & Gamble (P&G) and activist investor Nelson Peltz have spent, according to the New York Times, at least $60 million in a proxy battle over whether Mr Peltz was to get a seat on the P&G board. (Yesterday the vote went management’s way, but the conflict over P&G’s strategy is expected to continue.)
Part of the company’s war chest went towards a microsite – voteblue.pg.com – which forcefully made the case for management and against Mr Peltz. Leading with the banner ‘A Profoundly Different P&G’, the microsite had facts and figures backing the company’s strategy; supporting quotes from well-known analysts and business professors; and attacks on Mr Peltz’s record. The microsite also had prominent ‘How to vote’ links for shareholders.
Before the vote, the microsite was well signposted from P&G’s main corporate site. After the vote, the microsite was promoting the results.
It is unusual for a company to set up a microsite to fend off an activist investor, and voteblue.pg.com is possibly unique in using the tactics of a political website – unapologetically taking management’s side; attacking its opponent; and frequent calls to action – ‘how to vote’.
The political nature, and plain language, of the microsite may reflect the fact that P&G had to persuade individual shareholders, who own 40% of the company’s shares. It is an approach that appears to have paid off, at least in the short term.
The lessons for other digital managers may be niche – what to do when your company is in a public tussle with an activist investor; but as activists pursue more and larger corporate targets, it is a situation that could become increasingly common.