David Stern, who was VP-marketing in charge of Unilever's Interactive Brand Center during the halcyon days of the dot-com bubble from 1998 to 2000, earlier this month became senior VP-global CMO for the marketer of Jergens, John Frieda, Biore, Curel and Ban.
Out of the picture
He succeeds Tara Khoury, who has left the company. Ms. Khoury, who joined Kao in 2005, had duties similar to Mr. Stern's but limited to North America. She didn't return calls and e-mails for comment, and the company and Mr. Stern declined to comment on the personnel move other than to confirm it.
While Mr. Stern's new role is termed global, people familiar with the company said it most likely encompasses only North America, Western Europe and Latin America, with executives at the home office of the Japanese company likely to keep overseeing marketing for Asia.
Kao's operations in Western Europe recently have seen considerable management turnover, one of the executives said, adding that Mr. Stern's experience could be a valuable addition to a marketer that has been underrepresented in digital media despite having teens as key parts of the consumer base for all its brands.
Of the $142.5 million Kao spent on measured media last year in the U.S., only 1.3% went to the internet, according to TNS Media Intelligence, and over the past two years, Kao spent less than 1% of its budget on digital media.
No stranger to Cincy
Mr. Stern is based in Cincinnati, where Kao is dwarfed by its much larger neighbor Procter & Gamble Co. Prior to joining Kao, one of his trips to the city was for the Future of Advertising Stakeholder Summit P&G held at its headquarters 10 years ago on interactive media, to which P&G invited rivals including Unilever.
Kao Brands CEO William Gentner has alternated between veterans of P&G and Unilever in the CMO post over the past decade. Ms. Khoury was a P&G veteran. Her predecessor, Brad Kirk, now chief operating officer of Toronto-based hair-care marketer Marc Anthony Cosmetics, was a Unilever alum.
Even beyond the Unilever digital experience, Mr. Stern brings an unusually broad background to the CMO post.
From 2004 to 2007, he was CEO of Succendo, a direct seller of home- and personal-care products focused on upscale fragrances and using what Mr. Stern's LinkedIn profile bills as an "innovative product-development approach to deliver higher quality, more fashion-forward products to market at a fraction of the time and cost of competitive" products.
Before that, from 2001 to 2004, Mr. Stern was CEO of Endeavors, supplier of private-label fragrances to such retailers as CVS.
And before that, he was managing director of Interpublic Group of Cos.' design and branding firm FutureBrand and CEO of Unilever's short-lived beauty-focused e-commerce joint venture with iVillage, now a unit of NBC Universal.
MDC Partners' Kirshenbaum Bond & Partners handles creative duties for Kao Brands, while Interpublic's Initiative handles media buying and planning. Both are based in New York.