What You Should Know About P&G's Next CEO, David Taylor

He Was Plant Manager Before Brand Manager, but Still Gets Agencies' Respect

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David Taylor will take the helm as CEO of the world's biggest advertising spender, Procter & Gamble Co., as of Nov. 1, the company announced today, a move widely anticipated since global beauty duties were added to his role as group president-global health and grooming earlier this year.

Mr. Taylor, 56, has been at P&G since 1980, and group president – one level from CEO – since 2013. But he's made relatively few public appearances with investors compared to other contenders for the top job over the years and was until recently a relative dark horse, despite leading some of P&G's more successful – if less glamorous – brands. Here are some things you probably didn't know about P&G's putative next CEO.

He was trained as an electrical engineer at Duke. While P&G has many engineers turned marketers and general managers, Mr. Taylor will be the first to make it to CEO. Mr. Taylor's professors "almost thought I was wasting my engineering degree" by going to P&G rather than a company like IBM, he said in a talk at Duke's Fuqua School of Business in November.

He was plant manager before he was brand manager. The road to the 11th floor at P&G doesn't generally run through Mehoopany, Pa., but Mr. Taylor rose within 10 years to head the paper mill there with nearly 1,300 employees. "What became clear the longer I was in product supply is I was very interested in the total business at P&G," Mr. Taylor said at Duke. "In our company if you aspire to senior management, you really have to understand brand building." So he started over as an assistant brand manager on Pampers in 1992 "a fabulous lesson in humility," he said.

He spent twice as long in manufacturing as marketing. On the fast track to general management, Mr. Taylor spent only a year as ABM, three as brand manager and two as marketing director, six years total and all in the diaper business. His immediate predecessors -- current Chairman-CEO A.G. Lafley and former Chairman-CEO Bob McDonald, who also got late starts after military careers before joining P&G, spent 10 and eight years in marketing, respectively.

He's well regarded by agency executives. P&G agency executives give Mr. Taylor high marks. "I think he will be very visible and engaged with P&G people and agencies as well," said former P&G Global Marketing Officer Jim Stengel. "He has a terrific reputation with agency leaders." While the same could be said for Mr. Lafley on his first term, the turnaround-driven, agency-consolidating, brand-culling Mr. Lafley in his "Lafley 2.0" era since 2013 has spent little time with agency executives, they say.

He had global and beauty duties early on. From 1998 to 2003 Mr. Taylor was general manager in Hong Kong, Greater China and Western Europe with oversight over hair care and tissue-towel businesses in his early 40s.

He's tasted failure. At Duke, Mr. Taylor recounted the unsuccessful launch of the Ascend hair care brand in China at a time when P&G was eager to launch new brands. Ultimately, Ascend didn't add anything more-established brands like Pantene couldn't, but both the brand manager below him and agency he worked with thrived elsewhere and "became stronger leaders as a result of this," he said.

That wasn't the only failure. Mr. Taylor was a general manager for P&G's efforts to extend its tissue- towel business in Asia and Western Europe, both of which the company ultimately divested with big writeoffs last decade.

Perhaps as a result, he's a champion of risk taking. "It is difficult to accept that many of the things you want to do aren't going to work," Mr. Taylor said at Duke, adding that he tries to protect risk takers.

He's also had plenty of success. Mr. Taylor came back to the U.S. in 2004 and led a successful decade-long run for Bounty and Charmin, built part by launching the Basic value brand for both – well ahead of the Great Recession. Home care, including Febreze and Swiffer, also thrived on his watch.

He has had steady wins as a falling tide sinks other boats. The businesses Mr. Taylor has been leading (except beauty, where he only came on less than six months ago) had the best organic sales results in the company for the nine months ended March 31, with grooming up 3% and healthcare up 4%. That said, global market share was flat in three of his four segments and down in one. But everywhere else, P&G has been losing market share.

He wasn't part of the inner circle. Unlike Mr. McDonald (Mr. Lafley's first successor), Mr. Taylor was never part of the cadre of executives from P&G's 1990 laundry business who became top leaders and most of the CEO succession candidates under Mr. Lafley the past decade.

He's not a command-and-control guy. "I've come to really appreciate messy meetings where we disagree with each other respectfully, because out of that you often get a level of alignment that is so different" from a command-and-control style, Mr. Taylor said at Duke.

People love him. Mr. Taylor gets high, if unattributed, praise from people who've worked for him. Bob Goodwin, a personal friend who's now senior VP-sales for the First Advantage background screening service after sales posts for IRI, NPD Group and Curiosity Advertising, explains it this way: "He treats people like people, not like production units."