Kao Picks Publicis Shops for Media, Digital-Creative Duties

Maker of Jergens and John Frieda Products Wanted to Consolidate With a Single Company

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Personal care manufacturer Kao USA has selected Publicis Groupe agencies Spark and Digitas to handle its media and digital-creative accoutns.

Spark, which was revamped early last year to become a third, competitive media shop for Publicis' Starcom MediaVest Group, will support digital and traditional media planning and buying. Digitas will handle digital creative.

Both agencies referred calls to the client.

Kao's VP-Global Marketing Services Judy Beaudry confirmed the selection of Spark and Digitas -- both for the general market and "targeted specialty markets" that she declined to specify.

"We're bringing together a number of agency assignments into a single assignment," she said. "That's why I don't think it's appropriate to talk about incumbents, because it's not the same thing." She also declined to comment on other participants in the review.

The review and new assignments do not affect the assignment for KBS, New York, Kao's lead creative agency, she said.

The selection follows a review during which the company indicated its desire to "consolidate traditional media and digital media/marketing with a single agency lead," according to a request-for-information document circulated to agencies.

Joanne Davis was the consultant overseeing the pitch process.

The RFI said that the company's annual gross media budget is between $80 million and $95 million, with 70% of that money spent on John Frieda hair-care products and Jergens hand and body lotions. According to Kantar Media, the company spent $131 million on U.S. measured media in 2012.

Kao most recently has worked with Interpublic's Initiative for media planning and buying and Enlighten for digital marketing and creative. The incumbents couldn't immediately be reached for comment.

Kao is one of many recent wins for the revitalized Spark. The midsize shop won the $365 million media account for Abbott Laboratories' new pharmaceutical spinoff, AbbVie. It also won business from Taco Bell, Orbitz, Hyatt Hotels and Warby Parker.

For Initiative, the loss follows a quiet 2012 on the new-business front and a flurry of leadership changes. After the exit of global CEO Richard Beaven last year, Jim Hytner took over as global CEO and Nick Pahade joined as North American CEO. As part of a larger IPG Mediabrands reorganization affecting both Initiative and UM this February, Initiative announced that Jim Elms would succeed Mr. Hytner as global CEO and Peter Mears would succeed Mr. Pahade in the North America role.

The U.S. marketer is a subsidiary of Japanese Kao Corp.

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