P&G opens massive U.S. Family Home, showcases brands

The Tide and Downy Laundry Center is always a popular place in Procter & Gamble's U.S. Family Home, which opened Friday.
Procter & Gamble opened its U.S. Family Home on Friday. Located in a 65,000-square-foot facility near London Bridge, it features more than a dozen P&G brands, from Crest and CoverGirl to Old Spice. It is the centerpiece of the company’s marketing on the ground in London, and its top marketing executive, Jodi Allen, gave staff writer Tripp Mickle a tour.

P&G’s Jodi Allen smiles with pride as she surveys the families of Olympians lining up for lunch Friday inside Vinopolis, a cavernous building near London Bridge.

Allen, the vice president of North America operations and marketing, spent the past two years working with her team converting the facility into P&G’s U.S. Family Home, and it finally opened Friday, showcasing the company’s vast portfolio of brands, including Pantene, Crest, Duracell, Head & Shoulders, Gillette, Olay, CoverGirl, Tide and Downy.

“This is my favorite part,” Allen says. “I love giving tours.”

The room that P&G calls "Parkscapes,"
Dressed patriotically in a blue dress, red scarf and white shoes, she steps into a room that P&G calls “Parkscapes.” It’s a long, rectangular space with exposed brick walls that has been converted into a dining hall for the next 17 days. A turf carpet covers the floor and green balloons the size of small blimps hang from the ceiling.

“The idea is to have it look like a London garden,” Allen says. “The balloons are supposed to be like trees.”

P&G is offering lunch and dinner to Olympic families throughout the London Games, and Allen says they expect to serve 200 to 600 meals a day. The dining room just opened but already families are seated at some of the two dozen wooden tables, eating pizza, macaroni and cheese, salad, beef, carrots and potatoes.

Just outside the room is a similarly large hall with chairs and white couches. There are blue pillows on the couches with P&G brand names — Old Spice, Secret — and large bean bag chairs. An enormous white screen hangs at one end of the room ready to show Friday’s opening ceremony.

“We’ve got TVs throughout the house,” Allen says. “We’ve got the BBC on some and the capability to get NBC, too.”

She steps into a room on the opposite side of the dining hall and breezes past a large white wall with P&G’s Olympic brand logo and the words “Thank you, mom.” The wall is there for people to write inspirational messages for Olympians who visit the home, and it already has marker scribbled across it.

“We think this will be full before we leave here,” Allen says.

The Duracell virtual stadium
She steps into a Duracell-branded room. An enormous 15-by-6-foot TV screen framed by replicas of Duracell black and copper-topped batteries stands before her. The screen is linked to a computer that can pick up videos, tweets and Facebook posts of encouragement for athletes from people back home and is central to P&G’s effort to connect the centerpiece of its Olympic activation in London with people in the U.S.

The Pampers playground
Allen says she has already found her favorite post, a “cute cheer” for Jordyn Wieber. She moves from the Duracell room to a Pampers play area for kids. It has a white picket fence with a green gate that she swings open. There are toys and a mini playground for kids spread across a padded floor. A changing room is in the back, and Allen pulls out one of Pampers’ diapers with the words USA across the bottom.

“Back to my point on return on investment,” she says. “This [logo] was able to get more merchandising [for Pampers] at Wal-Mart and other retailers than they historically get. Every retailer likes to get something a little special and this is special.”

She slides the diaper back under the changing table, slips out of the Pampers gate and pauses in a corridor with three London-style, red phone booths. Each has a laptop inside where guests can Skype, email, tweet and post to Facebook.

“We know not everyone can be here,” Allen says. “We want people to be able to share what they’re experiencing with friends and family who couldn’t come.”

She steps into a room next door to the phone booths.

“We’re calling this ‘Picadilly Circus,’” she says.

The room is circular and a white screen rings the top of it. Projectors beam video onto the screen from NBC Sports Network and P&G’s “Raise an Olympian” series, which is about the families behind each of its 23 endorsed athletes. It will show the Olympics throughout the Games.

Allen breezes through the room and pauses at a blue booth with a Tide logo above it. It’s the Tide and Downy laundry station. She picks up a blue bag and explains that parents can take these home, fill them with dirty clothes, bring them back and pick their clothes up 24 hours later, clean and folded.

“This is the one, as a mom, I go, ‘Oh, can I get this at home?’” Allen says.

The Gillette Lounge "man cave"
She spins away from the Tide station and strides across the room to a closed door. Opening it, she says, “This is the man cave, but we need to rename it because I personally plan to spend a lot of time here.”

She walks to a ledge that overlooks a basement area and peers over. Foosball tables, pool tables and TVs are spread around the room below here. An Old Spice bar closed off with sailing rope and wooden barrels stands off to the side.

“This is every man’s dream,” Allen says.

She descends a step of stairs and walks to a Gillette shaving center in the back of the room. Mike Norton, P&G director of external relations, male grooming, is standing there in front of a row of sinks, speaking with two professional barbers that Gillette has hired for the Olympics. Male family members can come there to have their hair washed with Head & Shoulders and get a fresh shave any time they like.

“They’ll be using hot towels like a barber shop and Gillette products to soften the skin,” Norton says, picking up a Gillette ProGlide that the barbers will use on guests. “There’s nothing worse than a guy with a $3 look and a beautiful woman. Hopefully, we serve every guy that comes through.”

As she exits the salon, Allen admits that most men wouldn’t normally consider going to a salon, but with it here, she thinks they will take advantage of it.

The Crest and Oral-B area
The next room she walks into is a Crest and Oral-B area. Both brands are sampling their product and there’s a private sink for freshening up. Nearby, guests can grab props ranging from boxing gloves to track jerseys and get their photo taken in front of a green screen. They can post the photo on Facebook and get a copy to take home as a souvenir.

“We did this in a small way in Vancouver and learned that people really loved it, so we tried
The P&G salon
to make it a bigger operation here,” Allen says.

There’s one last room she wants to tour, and it’s one that she expects to be in the highest demand during the Games. As she climbs a series of nearby stairs, she passes enormous images of CoverGirl endorsees Taylor Swift and Queen Latifah and a sign that reads “P&G Salon.”

On the other side of a doorway, there’s a registration desk where five women are lining
Gymnast Jordyn Wieber (right) and her mother, Rita, enjoy the opening of the U.S. Family Home.
up to make appointments to get a makeover or have their hair done. White couches with blue pillows branded with Secret and CoverGirl sit nearby.

Behind the registration desk, there are eight stations for makeovers and haircuts. There’s also a hair-coloring station and a pedicure station. Allen says that Rita Wieber, mother of gymnast Jordyn Wieber, has already made an appointment for hair coloring.

“This place based on what we saw in Vancouver will be packed,” Allen says. “Moms want to be pampered.”

As she leaves the salon, she says that she will be here for all but four days of the Olympics. She will be working with her team to make sure the facility is running smoothly.

“I’m here to service the moms,” Allen says. “My team will be here. We’re all here to service moms and families.”
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