Procter & Gamble Co. is getting a new top digital executive as Lucas Watson, who has served in that role since 2008, moves to an overseas assignment with the company. He'll be replaced by Ilonka Laviz, associate marketing director on the Always feminine-care brand.
Mr. Watson referred calls to P&G spokeswoman Tonia Elrod, who confirmed the move and said Mr. Watson would be shifting to a role in P&G's personal health-care business in Latin America. Ms. Laviz will transition this quarter into the role of marketing director-digital brand-building strategy and global e-commerce in the global brand-building organization. Mr. Watson, based in Panama, will be marketing director in P&G's personal health-care global business unit.
P&G has substantially stepped up its digital and social-media marketing efforts under Mr. Watson, who reported jointly to Global Brand-Building Officer Marc Pritchard and Alex Tosolini, VP-global e-business. P&G earlier this year consolidated its digital marketing and e-commerce efforts into a single "e-business" unit.
Since Mr. Watson took the job in 2008, P&G has more than tripled measured internet ad spending to $169 million last year, according to Kantar Media. P&G also had one of the most widely watched social-media and viral-video campaigns ever with the "Responses" effort for Old Spice last year. It also had several other videos, particularly for Old Spice and Gillette, notch top spots in the viral-video viewership charts in the past year, launched its own e-store and added click-to-buy options or Facebook commerce for several brands.
Mr. Watson was associate marketing director on Pampers when P&G Global Brand-Building Officer Marc Pritchard selected him for the digital position. He didn't have direct experience in digital media or marketing prior to that , but had worked with a Pampers brand that had one of the company's biggest websites and online relationship-marketing programs.
Mr. Pritchard appears to be taking a similar tack with Ms. Laviz. She, too, hasn't been a digital marketing specialist at any point in her career, but has been a strong supporter of one of P&G's longest-running online relationship-marketing and community programs, BeingGirl.com, which primarily serves the Always and Tampax feminine-care brands, according to people familiar with the matter.
Always, the brand Ms. Laviz has worked on since 2005, most recently as associate marketing director, has relied far less on TV than other P&G brands in recent years. But measured spending for the brand has been mostly on print, which got 78% of P&G's $78 million outlay on the brand last year, according to Kantar. TV got 21% and internet received 1%. Kantar data cover online display but don't pick up spending on search, mobile, or website development and don't cover the full cost of behaviorally targeted advertising.
Ms. Laviz joined P&G's finance department 16 years ago in her native Colombia before moving into marketing on the fabric-care business there two years later. She worked out of P&G's Latin America headquarters in Venezuela starting in 1999, and in 2004 joined the global feminine-care organization, where she helped lead expansion of the Naturella feminine-care brand from Latin America to Russia and Poland.
During her watch on Always in the U.S., the brand launched the unusual and sometimes controversial "Have a Happy Period" campaign from Publicis Groupe 's Leo Burnett, Chicago. That campaign is criticized in an "open letter" to a fictitious P&G brand manager, James Thatcher, that appeared in 2007 and has been making the rounds virally on the internet ever since.
Despite the criticism, P&G's share in sanitary pads rose from 44.7% in 2006, before the campaign began, to 51.4% in 2009, according to SymphonyIRI data from Deutsche Bank. But Kimberly-Clark Corp.'s U by Kotex launch helped carve 0.5 points off Always' share last year.
In a 2007 interview with Advertising Age, Ms. Laviz said, "Yes, we understand periods definitely are not the best part of the month. ... But it doesn't have to be that bad."
The campaign, she said, "started behind the understanding that unlike tampon consumers, the pad user doesn't want to get rid of her period. Her period is a natural part of being a woman."
Most women who criticized the campaign, she said, are tampon users, who aren't the target for the ads.