J&J Looks to Globalize Agency Teams to Match Its New Structure

Lewis Wants One Global Idea for Each Megabrand, End to Agency Silos

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A year after Johnson & Johnson brought Coca-Cola veteran Alison Lewis in as the first chief marketing officer of its consumer business, things are going well, with sales and share beating rivals from the over-the-counter drug business to skincare. Now, hoping to maintain momentum, she's opening a whole can of Coke-style globalization on the historically fragmented company and its agencies.

Alison Lewis, CMO of J&J's consumer business
Alison Lewis, CMO of J&J's consumer business

In an announcement set for today, Ms. Lewis is setting out her vision for aligning J&J's agencies and holding companies with a new global "hub and spoke" system for its global megabrands. The dozen megabrands account for the bulk of J&J's $14.7 billion in global consumer sales and $2.5 billion in reported global ad spending, though the company will retain key local and regional brands.

The plan aims to implement a new integrated marketing communications process similar to those of such rivals as Kimberly-Clark Corp. and aimed at creating media-neutral ideas that travel around the world. It's not about cutting marketing staff or production budgets, or even centralizing marketing decisions at the company's New Brunswick, N.J., headquarters, Ms. Lewis said in an interview.

"The whole idea is that structure follows strategy," Ms. Lewis said, but agencies are often left out of that process when companies reorganize. "Our agencies have been local, local, local," she said. "With our megabrands, as we move to one idea, we're moving to more of a global-to-region model."

But the "hubs" are virtual rather than literal, she said, with the possibility that a creative director in Shanghai works with an account planner in New York.

"It's not reassignment of agencies, but we're looking to unleash the power of these holding companies," she said. J&J's holding companies -- WPP, Omnicom and Interpublic -- are "very broad and deep in terms of capabilities," she said, "but you're often sort of siloed in the agency you're with. In this new agency operating model, what the agencies are working with us on is how do they unleash their broader agency capability."

The goal isn't necessarily to align all of a brand's marketing services under a single holding-company or J&J-specific unit, she said, "but we are committed to looking within our holding companies for capabilities where they exist." And while J&J isn't adopting a general-contractor model along the lines of the system Procter & Gamble Co. initiated years ago and has since relaxed, she said one agency needs to take charge of coordinating with the rest of the group. "Otherwise the client goes crazy," she said.

Besides J&J's consumer business, two brands in the company's medical devices group that do extensive consumer advertising -- Acuvue vision care and OneTouch diabetes monitors -- are adopting the integrated communications and agency models, Ms. Lewis said.

J&J's consumer division has expanded its central marketing-services team some, she said, but more emphasis will be on building the central marketing teams in countries and regions to implement global ideas. Media and sales teams, the latter outside her purview, remain country-focused, as does profit-and-loss accountability.

By getting input from the top country and regional markets for global ideas, she hopes to avoid engendering resistance to global campaign ideas or having to sell global ideas to local executives who ulimtately write the checks.

"Selling to another person in the company is not a great value-added activity," she said, "so we're taking a very different model of strong engagement from the lead markets."

The best example to date of J&J's new approach in practice has been Clean & Clear, which went from three campaigns to a single "See the real me" campaign from DDB globally this year. That's resulted in the brand taking the lead in U.S. skincare category growth for the first time in six years, as well as taking share in India, Ms. Lewis said. J&J executives have been sharing ideas for the campaign among the U.S., U.K. and India. The next brand to fully implement the approach will be Johnson's Baby early next year, with creative direction led from Asia by BBDO, she said.

The approach -- from identifying consumer "need states" to developing global ideas, resembles what she worked with at Coke, Ms. Lewis said. "We're trying to build our global infrastructure" at J&J, she said. "It's not at the level of Coke's today. But that's one of my primary charges."

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