Procter & Gamble is a household name with nearly 100 brands and associated products under its wings. Tide detergent, Pampers diapers, Bounty paper towels, and the skincare brand, Olay, are all owned by P&G. Marketing these brands has also earned P&G the title of the world’s highest-spending marketer (the brand spent over $18 billion last year on promotions, nearly $10 billion of which went toward advertising). P&G certainly has the budget to pay for licensing photography, but apparently lacks the will to do so according to accusations brought by Cincinnati-based photographer, Annette Navarro, who is suing the company for $75 million.
While some photographers have run into issues with smaller brands and sometimes look for over-the-top punitive damages, there is nothing small or punitively over-the-top for P&G, which allegedly showed complete disregard for paying proper licensing fees.
Navarro worked on a number of jobs over a 14-year period for various P&G brands. However, after completing a job for P&G’s brand, Olay, she recalled P&G wanting to save money by licensing the images for three years for use only in North America. While this was relatively standard, years later, the modeling agency representing the models in the photographs would inform her of the unlicensed use of these images both after the licensing terms ended and outside of North America. P&G has reportedly settled with the modeling agency, but did not offer terms acceptable to Navarro, who now seeks the maximum penalty for a number of images used without proper licensing. A similar case handled by Navarro’s lawyers against a different client resulted in a $1.6 million payout for the unauthorized use of just two images, making Navarro’s suit for $75 million not entirely unreasonable considering the widespread use of “several photos.”
P&G knows its advertising budget is out of control and recently announced it would begin scaling back the promotional spending that ate 22 percent of its earnings last year. However, for any company, let alone for one whose annual revenue is in the many billions of dollars, lying about territories and length of time that an image has been used for to save on licensing fees is far from the right way to scale back ad spending. Perhaps the company could have considered running just two of the three $5 million Super Bowl ads it ran this year.