P&G in a statement late yesterday said it had moved the North American creative account for the brand to Burnett, which already handled it outside the U.S.
'Simplify our agency roster'
"This decision will simplify our agency roster," said Craig Bahner, VP-general manager of P&G's hair-care division. "Consolidating marketing leadership for the Herbal Essences brand globally under the direction of Leo Burnett offers strong global resources and marketing capabilities that will enable the brand to more effectively and efficiently manage their marketing plans."
P&G spent $28.5 million on measured media for the brand last year, according to TNS Media Intelligence, but is on pace to more than double that this year following a restaging begun in June.
The big-budget restage has slowed, but not stopped, the decline of Herbal Essences, which has been threatened in the U.S. by two relatively new flankers with similar market positions: L'Oreal's Garnier Fructis, launched in 2003, and Unilever's Sunsilk, introduced in July.
Herbal Essences was last in mortal danger in the early 1990s under Bristol-Myers Squibb when the company turned to Linda Kaplan Thaler, then at Wells Rich Greene, for help. She recounted saying in a meeting: "What this brand needs is an orgasm." And a campaign was born that lasted until 2004, when P&G scrapped it.
Since then, P&G has tried tamer ads, including one featuring Christian pop star Jadyn Maria, and the most recent ads have focused heavily on the brand's newly redesigned curved bottles.
Herbal Essences sales are down 10% so far this year in shampoo and conditioner even though category sales are up 8%, according to Information Resources Inc. data from Morgan Stanley.
Far better overseas
Since P&G bought Herbal Essences from Bristol-Myers as part of the 2001 Clairol deal, the brand has been doing far better overseas than in the U.S., where it has been steadily losing market share. Overseas, the brand has been gaining share thanks to rollouts into new markets in Europe and Asia.
Mr. Bahner said Kaplan Thaler Group "is a valued and long-standing agency partner of P&G" and will continue to handle the Aussie and Infusium brands in the U.S., restaging both next year. Those brands, too, have been declining in recent years, though P&G's overall share in hair care has been flat to slightly up in the past year thanks to strong performances by Pantene and Head & Shoulders.