Procter & Gamble Co. has put media duties for its North American hair care business up for review, jeopardizing a key piece of the business won by Omnicom's Hearts & Science just over two years ago.
H&S is defending in the new review, which also includes Dentsu Aegis Network's Carat, co-winner in the massive North American media review P&G held in 2015. They are the only two contenders.
Omnicom initially formed Hearts & Science in 2016 to handle P&G as a charter client in the wake of that review, one of several in a year dubbed "Mediapalooza."
A spokeswoman for Hearts & Science referred requests for comment to P&G. Carat and Dentsu representatives didn't immediately respond to requests for comment.
P&G Chief Brand Officer Marc Pritchard says he hopes to have the new review complete in time for the assignment to begin at the start of the company's new fiscal year July 1. "We have two agencies in the U.S.," Pritchard says, "and it does give us some degree of flexibility."
P&G's hair care, led by Pantene, Head & Shoulders and Herbal Essences, accounted for $261 million in measured media spending in the U.S. alone last year, according to Kantar Media, nearly 10 percent of the company's broader $2.7 billion U.S. outlay. But the assignment, at least as originally configured, also covers Canada and Puerto Rico, plus such areas as search and planning not covered by measured media.
The move comes as P&G takes a close look at how it handles media and agencies, bringing more planning in house and in some cases even turning buying duties over to internal executives, including at the brand level.
Pritchard told the Association of National Advertisers Media Conference last month that better data and analytics are letting P&G bring more media planning in house, while its internal purchasing people "can negotiate with the best of them, so we're doing more private marketplace deals in-house." So the scope of the new hair-care media assignment could prove smaller than the old one.
Concerns specific to the hair business are driving this review, Pritchard says. "Our hair care business is looking at their whole brand building model," he says, noting that includes greater focus on "one-to-one marketing and influencers."
P&G's North American haircare business also had a leadership change recently, following departure of former VP-North American Hair Care Jodi Allen in September to Hertz, where she became chief marketing officer.
After scuffling for years, P&G's hair-care business has fared better globally of late, with sales up 3 percent in the first quarter. But the U.S. has remained a challenge, particularly for Pantene, with P&G's shampoo market share in brick-and-mortar stores falling steadily the past 12 months, according to Nielsen data from Bernstein Research.