Global Kleenex effort breaks K-C boundaries

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Kimberly-Clark Corp. is launching an estimated $80 million trans-Atlantic TV and print branding effort that lends an emotional touch to its 75-year-old Kleenex brand.

The campaign, breaking in the U.S. today, is the first from J. Walter Thompson Co., New York, since it acquired the account last year, and marks a huge cultural shift for K-C, which jointly developed the ads using an unusually small global team.

The "Thank goodness for Kleenex" effort follows in Europe in September, and ultimately should appear in Asia and Latin America. An initial flight of four 15- and 20-second TV spots ultimately could grow to several dozen, allowing K-C executives in each country to choose ads that work best for them.


Typical of the campaign is a spot in which a little boy runs to hug his dad before he leaves for work, but the dad is conflicted as he watches the boy's runny nose coming toward his suit. A conveniently placed box of Kleenex comes to the rescue.

The creative replaces Kleenex's long-running "Share the love, not the germs" effort from former brand agency FCB Worldwide, Chicago.

The new global campaign was developed by a small project team including Bruce Paynter, VP-family care marketing at K-C, and two marketing directors on the K-C side, along with Hildie Neuman, JWT's worldwide director in charge of all K-C brands, based in New York. Creative input came from five of JWT's global offices.

The Kleenex effort is the first trial of a new policy suggested by JWT, Mr. Paynter said, that gives decisionmaking authority only to those people who brief the agency on strategy. "Because we at Kimberly-Clark did not have the depth of global experience that JWT had, we asked them to share their insights on global best practices," he said.


Though brand managers and more junior marketing directors were consulted, they were not part of agency-client meetings and had no say in decisions. As a result, a core group of three K-C and one to three agency executives were involved in meetings that in the past would have involved at least six from each side working independently on each continent. "It's a gigantic cultural change, because everyone in the marketing community wants input into advertising," noted Mr. Paynter.


"Quite frankly, whenever you tell a marketing director or brand manager that they're not going to make the decisions on advertising their brand, they don't like it very much," said Kent Willetts, director-family care brand positioning for North America and a team member. "People didn't like it at first. I wouldn't say they like it now. But I would say they are adapting and making it work."

The resulting advertising has tested much better than existing ads on both continents, said Stuart Hepburn, marketing director for family care in Europe and the third K-C member of the team. That gives "the whole process the credibility it needs to continue."

Perhaps the most dramatic difference in process came at the end, when Messrs. Willetts and Hepburn reviewed film and decided rough cuts on the production set in Los Angeles late last month. "Under the old process, getting from rough cut to finished commercial would have included the opinions of 23 people and taken weeks," Mr. Hepburn said. "We went from film to approved rough cuts in four days."

In all the process took a year, but it included a ground-up analysis of the brand and its needs on both continents. K-C winnowed a group of 11 campaigns prepared by the JWT offices down to six, then three, then one.

Though package-goods market-ers increasingly have reorganized along global lines, K-C's process departs from standard procedure for most brands.


Procter & Gamble Co.'s Pringles and H.J. Heinz Co.'s eponymous ketchup brand also have run global ads developed by multinational teams -- both headed by Casey Keller, former marketing director at P&G and now VP-meal enhancement at Heinz. But other marketers, such as Unilever and Gillette Co. and even most P&G global brands, have tended to develop ads in one region and reapply successful concepts globally.

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