P&G Goes Digital

Proctor & Gamble , one of the largest household
products manufacturers in the world, is going to help shape digital home
efforts when it takes a seat on the Internet Home Alliance’s (IHA)
board of directors Wednesday.

The maker of everything from diapers to toothpaste
joins a board that is slowly expanding beyond the
realm of technology and into the areas that drive consumer sales —
marketing and advertising.

Currently, the IHA board of directors is comprised of seven technology
companies: HP, Microsoft, Cisco, IBM, Best Buy, Sears, Whirlpool and General Motors.

Orly Cocco, P&G future home lab director, said his company’s involvement
comes from wanting to improve the way it advertises its wares to consumers
and how the digital home concept affects them.

“When there are changes to technology in the home, will that affect the way
people purchase our products and how,” he said. “There’s a thirst for
really understanding how to use a product and how it works, and you can’t
get that across in a 30-second commercial. So we’re really interested in
technologies that go right into the home.”

Despite problems
with interoperability, security and connectivity, the digital home premise
— connecting every device in the house to share data — is seen by many
companies as maturing and worth the investment.

The IHA, for example, has 31 companies under its belt ranging from tech
firms like Microsoft and Cisco to appliance makers like Sunbeam Products and
real estate investment trust Taubman Centers. The Digital Living Network
Alliance, another digital home organization, has nearly 160 member companies
and groups.

That support hasn’t always been the case. Cocco said the IHA has been
courting P&G for about a year, trying to get it into the
organization. It wasn’t until recently, however, that the company decided
to dip its feet in the digital home waters.

P&G will serve a one-year term on the board of directors before deciding
whether to stay onboard afterwards, though Cocco said he anticipates it will.
Besides contributing resources for IHA surveys and
white papers, P&G’s biggest efforts on the board involve getting
other non-tech companies into the fold, Cocco said.

“A mass merchandiser or club would be very interesting to have in there;
we’ve got a CompUSA and Sears, but maybe a Target — something along those
lines,” he said. “We need to get representation from something as basic as
a furniture manufacturer because a lot of what comes into the home has to
reside some place and I think they can bring something to the table, as well.”

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