P&G Moves Herbal Essences to Wieden & Kennedy

Second Account the Packaged Goods Giant Has Pulled from Leo Burnett This Year

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Wieden & Kennedy is solidifying its role as one of Procter & Gamble Co.'s favorite agency partners.

The packaged goods giant has moved the global Herbal Essences hair-care creative account to the Portland-based independent from Atelier, a unit of Publicis Groupe's Leo Burnett, the company said. It's a shift that gives W&K its biggest product brand win from P&G since landing Old Spice seven years ago.

The move also marks Leo Burnett's second P&G account loss in six months following P&G's decision in March to move the Tampax account to Publicis Worldwide. P&G spent $21 million on measured media for Herbal Essences last year, according to Kantar Media.

"As we refresh our strategy to fuel growth, we believe Wieden & Kennedy will bring fresh thinking and new approaches that will help us with our plans for Herbal Essences," a P&G spokeswoman said in a statement. "Wieden & Kennedy is familiar with our beauty business through their work with Old Spice, and they were the agency for the corporate sponsorship of the Olympics and the 'Thank You Mom' campaign."

She said P&G will work with Wieden on integration of digital, social media, public relations and in-store programs and agencies during transition planning between now and December.

The corporate-branding work for P&G that Wieden has handled since 2010 gave it a second significant piece of business, but up to now the shop hadn't won ad duties for another P&G brand (outside of some project work) since landing Old Spice in 2006. It tried though; in one of the shop's biggest disappointments, it pitched for the Gillette men's grooming account earlier this year, but lost to WPP's Grey.

"We're incredibly proud of our relationship with Procter & Gamble, as well as the evolution of our work on Old Spice and the P&G brand," said Tom Blessington, managing director of Wieden & Kennedy, Portland, in a statement. "We look forward to partnering with P&G to bring the same level of strategic thinking and creativity to the global Herbal Essences brand."

It's a pretty tall order given the success of the Old Spice work, for which W&K won widespread acclaim and awards.

In particularly 2010's the "Man Your Man Could Smell Like" TV, digital and social-media campaign featuring Isaiah Mustafa was a major hit. The brand began reversing years of declines at the hands of Unilever's Axe after Wieden took over. And Old Spice has been gaining sales and share in deodorant, body wash and most recent bar soap fairly consistently in recent years behind work from the agency.

Hair care has been another story for P&G, which has been losing share in the U.S. business for the most part in recent years. Most of the focus of concern by analysts and investors and P&G management, though, has been on category leader Pantene, handled by Grey. While P&G's market shares have been down in shampoo and conditioner this year, they have seen improvement sequentially compared to prior months of late in both categories, according to Nielsen data from Sanford C. Bernstein.

Atelier will continue to handle Vidal Sassoon Pro Series and Premium in the U.S. and Max Factor and Aussie outside the U.S., the P&G spokeswoman said, adding that it "has been and will continue to be a valued, long-term P&G agency partner across a number of our businesses."

Said Atelier's general manager, Jim Franzen, in a statement: "We are proud of the ideas and creativity we brought to Herbal Essences and respect P&G's decision for fresh thinking. We will now place even greater emphasis on the results-driven work we are creating every day for our P&G partners on Vidal Sassoon Pro Series, Vidal Sassoon Premium, SK-II, Max Factor, Aussie (Western Europe) and Secret."

The best known Herbal Essences advertising, the "Totally Organic" campaign featuring mock orgasms from women using the product, came from the prior agency on the brand, Kaplan Thaler Groupe, a Publicis Groupe sibling that had handled it when P&G acquired it in the 2001 Clairol deal. By 2004, the brand had nixed the orgasms, and by 2006, the account moved to Leo Burnett and Atelier. But not even a return to mock orgasms in ads featuring Nicole Sherzinger earlier this year could save the account for Atelier.

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