It's unclear where Mr. Perkins, 57, will land next -- he is expected to remain to wrap things up over the next few months and officially exit at the end of February -- and whether the company has a replacement for his role in mind.
J&J is the ninth-largest U.S. advertiser, according to the Ad Age Datacenter, with just over $2 billion in marketing spending devoted to brands such as Neutrogena, Aveeno, Tylenol, Motrin, Listerine, Stayfree, Zyrtec and Benadryl. On a global basis, worldwide measured-media spending is $2.25 billion, making the health-products behemoth the eighth-largest global marketer, per Ad Age 's rankings.
Mr. Perkins, a Rutgers and University of Pennsylvania grad, joined J&J in 1980, working in a variety of roles before taking on the post of president-McNeil Consumer Products in 1994. Five years later, he became company group chairman for OTC Pharmaceuticals before moving on to the current role of VP-corporate affairs. He's always been heavily involved in J&J's consumer ad strategy and known as an industry leader. Mr. Perkins has also served as chair of the Ad Council.
In recent times, Mr. Perkins has been an outspoken leader in the marketing arena, especially when it comes to the ways that clients and agencies should better collaborate, on the subject of procurement, re-bundling media with creative agencies and perhaps most explosively, calling for the large advertising holding companies -- many with which J&J partners -- to be taken private.
In an email statement, a J&J spokesman said, "Brian has been a passionate advocate for great advertising, both conventional and digital, and set the standard for the caliber of agencies with which the Johnson & Johnson family of companies work. Beyond his business accomplishments and leadership over the last 31 years at J&J, Brian's commitment to people as a friend, mentor, coach and valued colleague, both inside Johnson& Johnson and at the agencies and partners with whom we work, will be part of his legacy. He will always be considered part of the Johnson & Johnson Family."
Mr. Perkins' exit follows two years during which J&J has been forced to recall thousands of products, mainly in the over-the-counter drug business he once headed but also in the prescription pharmaceutical and medical device units. The recalls are expected to cost J&J more than $1 billion in lost sales this year and have severely hurt sales of such brands as Tylenol, Benadryl and Motrin.
While J&J has found capacity to resume production of some of the products, recently launching a campaign to ramp up sales of such products as Zyrtec, the company is still working to get approval from the Food and Drug Administration to return key production lines in the U.S. to operation and isn't expected to return to full production capacity until next year.
Mr. Perkins was the brand manager of Tylenol at the time of the famous 1982 poisoning crisis. But unlike the company's open and active approach to publicity and media relations during that crisis, J&J has been low key in its handling of the series of more than two dozen product recalls in the past two years. Mr. Perkins has personally declined to comment on the recall issue in the past.
Speculation about Mr. Perkins leaving J&J has circulated for years, even before the recall crisis, and some close to him have said he was hoping to find a position with an advertising agency or holding company.
Mr. Perkins didn't immediate return a call and an email for comment. But you can read the memo he sent out about his departure below (with personal contact information redacted).
From: "Perkins, Brian [JJCUS]"
Date: October 6, 2011
Subject: Some news
Just a short note to let you know that after a remarkable 31-year run at Johnson & Johnson, I've just announced that I will be leaving the Corporation February 29, 2012. Yes, February 29. It has been an honor and a privilege to serve this great company and to have worked with some of the most incredible people over the years ... people like you. I can't tell you how much I've appreciated your support over the years.
While I'll always feel a part of the Johnson & Johnson Family of Companies, I am incredibly excited about the business opportunities on the horizon.
Since I'll continue to operate in my current position for the next several months, you can continue to reach me through my current contact information. After March 1, I look forward to staying in touch with you. At that time, you will be able to reach me at:
All the best,
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