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Soap Opera : The Inside Story of Procter & Gamble

Soap Opera : The Inside Story of Procter & Gamble

Behind Procter & Gamble’s wholesome image is a control-obsessed company so paranoid that Wall Street analysts, employees, and the chairman himself refer to it as “the Kremlin.” P&G’s wealth and power ensure that it gets what it wants, from tax breaks

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posted by in Soap Operas and have Comments (5)

5 Responses to “Soap Opera : The Inside Story of Procter & Gamble”

  1. Qatmom says:

    Review by Qatmom for Soap Opera : The Inside Story of Procter & Gamble
    Rating:
    I was a Proctoid for nearly 8 years and can personally confirm some of the stories Swasy relates.The only weakness of the book is that she misses some of the dirt (the prostitution ring busted the same week as the drug ring at Sharon Woods Technical Center, for example) and some of the weaknesses of the company (low pay among technical people, driving out experienced people to bring in legions of temps with no loyalty to the company, and much more).Procter isn’t unique in its problems, but if they are not addressed honestly and in a timely fashion, in the long term, the company is in trouble. This ‘elephant’ does not dance, and they cannot go on buying good companies and running those brands into the ground while gutting research and innovation in-house.

  2. Bill Slocum says:

    Review by Bill Slocum for Soap Opera : The Inside Story of Procter & Gamble
    Rating:
    “Soap Opera” recounts what one hopes to be, though perhaps optimistically, a particularly bad period in the history of one of America’s largest corporations, Procter & Gamble in the ’80s and early ’90s, when led by succeeding CEOs John Smale and Ed Artzt, the company ran afoul of environmental laws, consumer safety, common sense, and basic human decency in truly arrogant fashion. To read the story comprehensively laid out by Alecia Swasy is to gape in astonishment at the true measure of human depravity in search of the holy buck.Does Swasy have it in for P&G? Yeah, but so would you if you were a journalist and your subject was breaking the law to trample on your rights while you tried to do your job. Things got so out of hand as P&G launched telephone record investigations and had ex-employees brought to Cincinnati police stations to explain why they were talking to a reporter, that the ensuing coverage sparked a national outcry. Pundits and cartoonists weighed in about the KGB tactics of people who make laundry detergent and toothpaste. When finally brought to heel by indignant shareholders, CEO Artzt shrugged and called it a mistake. “The only thing he regretted,” Swasy writes, “was getting caught.”Swasy was clearly embittered by her experience, and when her narrative flies into polemical flourishes, as in the Epilogue (“[Critics] refuse to buy the Ivory-pure image so carefully cultivated by P&G’s years of marketing. We should all do the same”), the book is poorer for it. She does a great job describing, through the voices of mostly anonymous insiders, the noxious work environment of P&G for its employees (and you don’t have to be a “Proctoid” to relate to the Dilbert-in-the-Death-Star picture she paints), then editorializes on how P&G advertising nurtures enduring cultural “myths” about a woman’s place being in the home. Frankly, this latter angle comes up lame. P&G advertising reflected the culture for years, it sold product, and it has been adjusted to fit contemporary mores, as Swasy notes (just not enough for her liking.) I don’t know whether it’s so awful the role of the female was once rather more rigidly defined than it is now, but dumping much of the blame on P&G’s doorstep seems excessive. Marketing to lesbian soccer Moms in the 1940s would probably have not helped P&G achieve its present level of success.Where Swasy’s book is strongest is the account of Rely, the tampon whose ingredients could cause toxic shock, and were directly responsible for the deaths of several women in 1979-80. Despite the accumulation of evidence, P&G went forward with its marketing. As recounted in a chapter of the book “Guerrilla Marketing”) that should be required reading in corporate ethics classes, CEO Smale even planned to roll out a deodorant version of Rely while his underlings worked to silence researchers (mostly successfully) with generous grant money. The chapter is particularly good when it recounts how one trial lawyer and a bereaved husband he represented forced P&G to pay ridiculously low damages and put needed heat on the effort to establish P&G’s culpability. Never mind, though. Swasy reveals later on that P&G’s lab boys were concurrently doping out how to add the same toxic chemical to diapers.There are other good chapters on P&G’s arrogant practices overseas, its inept handling of domestic retailers (not just the small fry but WalMart, too!), and its stranglehold on a Florida community living around a river P&G polluted. Sometimes, as with the Florida case, Swasy seems too eager to embrace anything the critics dish out, and her noting the death of the P&G snack food Pringles [as of the book's publication in 1994] appears in retrospect to have been premature.But overall, “Soap Opera” is a solid addition to business journalism. Books like this one only make you look a little deeper than your coupon stash in thinking about what products you buy. And that’s a good thing.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Review by for Soap Opera : The Inside Story of Procter & Gamble
    Rating:
    Alecia Swasy excellently describes the terrifying authoritarian world of Proctor & Gamble. Needless to say, this book reads like a soap opera. Highly entertaining and informative!

  4. Tina Volpe says:

    Review by Tina Volpe for Soap Opera : The Inside Story of Procter & Gamble
    Rating:
    I read this book in 4 days. This was such a good read and it also helped me to realize that 95% of homes in America and abroad have this company’s products in them. That scares me because they have such a blatent disregard for human life and preserving it. I will never use P&G products ever again in my home. Please use this book to wake up to corporate money hungry companies like P&G. Really sad that most americans don’t have a clue what kind of company’s products they are using.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Review by for Soap Opera : The Inside Story of Procter & Gamble
    Rating:
    The kind of writing you would expect from a writer at the Wall Street Journal, the best written and edited newspaper in America. This book tells it all, and you need to read it: Something is rotten in Cincinnati.

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