SPRINGDALE, Ark. (AdAge.com) -- Dina Howell, one of Procter & Gamble Co.'s top media and marketing executives, will leave the company by the end of this year to take over as CEO of shopper-marketing firm Saatchi & Saatchi X, according to people familiar with the matter.
Ms. Howell, currently VP-global media and brand operations for P&G, will replace longtime Saatchi X CEO Andy Murray, who's retiring from the agency but will work on a smooth transition to Ms. Howell's leadership of one of the largest global shopper-marketing agencies, according to a person familiar with the matter.
The two go way back. Ms. Howell was marketing director on P&G's Walmart team in Fayetteville, Ark., from 1996 to 2004, a period during which Mr. Murray was helping launch one of the first shopper-marketing shops for P&G (or anyone for that matter), Thompson Murray, which later was acquired by Saatchi. Today, Saatchi X has estimated global revenue of $41 million and works on the accounts of what are likely the biggest worldwide players in shopper marketing: P&G and Walmart.
Ms. Howell and spokespeople for P&G and Saatchi all declined to comment. Mr. Murray couldn't immediately be reached for comment. At the Center for Retail Excellence Conference in Springdale on Wednesday, Mr. Murray was honored with a scholarship in his name at the University of Arkansas. Addressing the crowd, Saatchi CEO Kevin Roberts said, "Andy 's done a sensational job down here and really led the thinking in shopper marketing."
While the move comes as a surprise for some, Mr. Murray has been seen by several people close to his agency as wanting to develop or find a successor for a number of years. One person close to Mr. Murray said he's an entrepreneur by nature likely to get involved with another startup venture eventually.
Ms. Howell had been scheduled to speak today at the Shopper Marketing Expo in Chicago and is not expected to appear there. But her move isn't the reason. She's been on leave with P&G because of recent shoulder surgery, she said.
Ms. Howell was instrumental in developing shopper marketing as a discipline at P&G last decade, and after her return to the company's Cincinnati headquarters from Northwest Arkansas in 2004, she led one of the packaged-goods industry's earliest and largest shopper-marketing organizations.
She assumed her current role overseeing P&G's global media organization, developing global best practices in media and communications planning, and leading strategy behind local and regional multi-brand organizations last year.
In that role, she's helped implement the company's "store back" approach, in which planning for all marketing campaigns is expected to start with finding an idea that works at store level.