P&G Consolidates Shaving Brands With Grey as BBDO Loses Key Foothold

Venus, Braun Follow Gillette to WPP's Grey in Latest Streamlining Move

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P&G has consolidated creative duties on its grooming businesses with WPP's Grey, moving the Venus, Braun and Art of Shaving brands from Omnicom's BBDO as part of its previously announced agency consolidation effort.

The move comes two years after P&G, the world's biggest advertiser, moved the Gillette men's razor business to Grey from BBDO and largely extricates BBDO from the P&G business, though it remains on the roster of the world's biggest advertiser.

Independent digital shop Resource/Ammirati, Columbus, will also lose Venus digital work to Grey in the consolidation, said P&G spokeswoman Tressie Rose, but it too remains on the roster handling other brands.

Ms. Rose said Grey may involve sibling agencies in that part of the work, but it hasn't been decided yet.

Omnicom's Integer Group, Denver, will lose global shopper-marketing duties to Grey in the consolidation, though it retains regional duties at least for now, and continues to handle other P&G brands, Ms. Rose said.

BBDO has been the only lead creative agency that Venus (with between $500 milliion and $1 billion in sales) has had since its launch 15 years ago, before P&G's bought Gillette. P&G spent $41 million on Venus last year, per Kantar Media, compared to $5 million for Braun and $2 million for The Art of Shaving. The latter two are seen by analysts as likely divestiture candidates amid P&G's efforts to shed 100 brands.

BBDO declined to comment. A spokeswoman for Resource couldn't immediately reach executives for comment, and Integer representatives didn't immediately return a call and email request for comment.

As with the decision announced earlier today to launch a North American media review, the grooming consolidation is not "performance based," Ms. Rose said. BBDO "has been a very strong agency partner," she said, and has been a very strong lead agency. "They will continue to remain a P&G roster agency in good standing," she said. Likewise, she said Resource also continues as a P&G digital agency on other brands.

The move is part of an effort by P&G to streamline its agency portfolio and reduce agency fees and production costs by $500 million annually.

"P&G wants to work with the best agency partners to get the best creative quality and the best communication effectiveness for our brands," P&G Global Brand Officer Marc Pritchard said in a statement. "As we continue our shift to building brands in the digital world, we are reviewing our North America media agencies to help us achieve the significant opportunities we see ahead for media effectiveness and efficiency. We're consolidating our grooming business to one lead agency to facilitate deeper category mastery, and to more effectively integrate creative execution across consumer touch points to build our brands."

The move comes despite recent success for the brands moving. P&G extended its Fusion FlexBall razor handle technology to the women's side with Venus Swirl in February, handled by BBDO, and in an April investor call, Chief Financial Officer Jon Moeller said early sales results were "very strong" with more than a million Swirl razors sold and Venus' dollar share in the category up 10 percentage points in the U.S. in March.

Braun, which had seen sales and share declines under P&G and before that Gillette, returned to market-share growth in 2013. Proximity BBDO, Cincinnati, handled the last major creative campaign for Braun last year, featuring Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson, and continues to handle key digital accounts such as Home Made Simple, Being Girl and Pampers Village programs. BBDO also continues to handle P&G work outside the U.S.

While the remainder of the grooming business is a nice pickup for WPP and Grey, the two could lose considerably more if P&G sheds its prestige fragrance and Cover Girl cosmetics brands, as widely expected by analysts, and WPP and Grey don't hold the accounts with a new owner. Those brands, including Dolce & Gabbana, Hugo Boss and Wella, had U.S. media spending of $240 million last year, per Kantar. P&G has declined to comment on divestiture plans.

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