The company announced today that Mr. Stengel, 53, who captains its $5.2 billion marketing budget, will step down Oct. 1. He will be working on special projects effective Aug. 1.
Succeeding him will be Marc Pritchard, 48, former head of P&G's cosmetics business who most recently had overseen a stepped-up global restructuring effort concentrated largely on how the company's regional market development organizations and global business units divide their duties.
Quitting while on top
The news came on the heels of what was arguably Mr. Stengel's greatest public moment of glory, appearing with Chairman-CEO A.G. Lafley to receive "Advertiser of the Year" honors at the International Advertising Festival last month.
The award was given some five years after he led P&G's first pilgrimage to Cannes in an effort to raise the creative bar at the company. And while this year's honor was controversial in some quarters -- with rival Unilever posting more top honors the year before -- P&G had its all-around strongest showing in memory at the festival this year, particularly in film.
"Jim feels very passionately that everything he has set out to achieve as global marketing officer he has now achieved," a P&G spokesman said by way of explaining his departure. "One is his focus on reinvigorating our marketing function, and [another goal has been] strengthening P&G's capabilities as one of the world's leading brand builders. He feels he's now achieved those goals.
"One personal goal that he's yet to achieve, that he now wants to focus all his personal efforts against, is he has a very personal passion to influence all marketers to embrace the power of marketing as a positive force in the world. He now wants to focus 100% on that, and feels the time is right to do that."
Mr. Stengel has not shared yet how exactly he wishes to take that message to a broader forum beyond P&G, the spokesman said. Mr. Stengel could not be reached for comment.
P&G has embarked on a wide variety of cause- and ethical-marketing efforts on Mr. Stengel's watch in recent years, including a Pampers program with Unicef and an effort led by Pur to provide safe drinking water in much of the world.
The company also went from flat organic sales growth to rates ranging up to 8% on his watch, until growth slowed to around 5% the past year. He argued forcefully for P&G to broaden its communications effort, though the company remained heavily dependent on TV advertising in the U.S.
Mr. Stengel's departure is the latest in a series of changes among the top functional chiefs at the company in recent months, most of them, like Mr. Stengel, reporting to Chief Operating Officer Robert McDonald. Among positions P&G recently has announced will change hands are the chief technology officer, head of human resources and chief design officer.
Mr. Pritchard, president-strategy, productivity and growth for the past two years, has used that position as a platform to tweak and streamline P&G's organizational structure, particularly in markets outside the U.S., eliminating some overlaps between the regional and global organizations. At least some of those positions have moved back to the U.S., swelling the ranks of P&G executives at the Cincinnati headquarters.
Unlike Mr. Stengel, and most of P&G's past chief marketers, Mr. Pritchard began his career in the company's finance organization, not brand management. He spent the first six years of his career, staring in 1982, in finance before starting over as an assistant brand manager on Sure.
Prior to his current position, Mr. Pritchard headed two of P&G's most embattled beauty-care businesses -- cosmetics and hair colorants -- where it had long been waging a share-losing battle to rival L'Oreal in the U.S. But, as P&G also evaluates businesses on how they perform after an executive leaves, his stock may have benefited, because both businesses have in the past year seen stronger share results behind new products, such as Clairol Perfect 10 hair colorants.
"Jim Stengel has reinvigorated P&G's marketing function and strengthened P&G's capability as one of the world's leading brand builders," Mr. Lafley said in a statement. "Jim has helped change the way P&G markets our brands by challenging traditional marketing models and setting new standards for P&G marketing rooted in deep consumer understanding."
Mr. Lafley called Mr. Pritchard, currently president-global strategy, "the right leader at the right time to take P&G marketing into the future. He's a committed brand-builder with more than 25 years experience and a proven track record of leadership results. He's worked side by side with Jim Stengel for the past two years to strengthen P&G's brand-building capability, and his deep knowledge and experience in branding, innovation and go-to-market capability will enable him to drive ongoing brand-building excellence."