P&G retains Clairol planners

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Despite its acquisition by Procter & Gamble Co. and elimination of more than two thirds of the marketing, research and administrative jobs at Clairol's Stamford, Conn., operations last month, Clairol is keeping its four-person media-planning group-a major departure from P&G convention.

The move is surprising given that P&G has moved in recent years to shift most media-planning duties to its media agencies, Bcom3 Group's MediaVest for TV and Starcom Worldwide for print. The rest of P&G, with about 24 times the sales and more than 10 times the media spending of Clairol in the U.S., has a media department of only eight people at its Cincinnati headquarters. P&G has one dedicated media-planning specialist for its other more than two dozen health and beauty-care brands, but most P&G business units have no dedicated media planners, according to executives familiar with the situation.

While Clairol is keeping more media control in-house, it will still handle TV and print buying through MediaVest and Starcom, said a spokeswoman for P&G's Clairol unit in New York. "It makes sense for them to keep the media planning with a small in-house group here at Clairol," she said. "They brought a unique set of capabilities and [P&G] thought they could learn from that expertise."

Clairol's in-house media planners, veterans of former owner Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. from which P&G bought the business in November, will handle planning for both the hair-color business based in Connecticut and the Herbal Essences, Aussie, Infusium and Renewal 5x hair-care brands, whose other marketing positions have been moved to Cincinnati.

Just as its "Totally Organic" ad campaign for Herbal Essences in recent years has been more daring than P&G advertising, Clairol also has had some more unconventional media deals than P&G brands, including Herbal Essences' recent cross-platform sponsorship and promotional tie-ins with the Britney Spears film "Crossroads."

Drawing on expertise in putting together complex deals like that is one reason the arrangement could make sense for P&G, said former VP-media Rich Wilson. He added that P&G looked at a similar arrangement of letting its proposed snack and beverage joint venture with Coca-Cola Co. keep media-planning duties in-house while moving buying to MediaVest before that deal fell through last year.

In a press conference announcing the Clairol deal last year, P&G President-Global Health and Beauty Bruce Byrnes said: "We're certainly not going to come in with an arrogant attitude and say you have to do something different." Notwithstanding the elimination of most jobs elsewhere at Clairol, preservation of the media-planning unit appears to be making good on that promise. P&G also retained Herbal Essences' agency, Bcom3 Group's Kaplan Thaler Group.

But the move could also have broader ramifications for P&G.

Clairol's media department is getting a bigger, more detailed role than media executives or brand managers at P&G's home office in Cincinnati have had since 1997. That's when the company moved media buying and planning from brand agencies to MediaVest and Starcom. P&G brand managers and agencies still do broad media channel planning, but media agencies select how much spending goes into network, cable, syndication or individual programs and magazine titles, using optimizers to get the best buys.

Since then, some P&G marketing and agency executives have privately grumbled about lack of control over media planning, such as selection of individual programs, though internal tests have shown overriding the optimizers doesn't produce better results, according to executives familiar with the situation. But the special arrangement for Clairol could fuel pressure for change.

"We'll have to see how it goes," said Mr. Wilson. "If it goes well, you'll probably see a lot of pressure from other [health and beauty] brands to do the same thing. But they've also got to justify the overhead."

contributing: jon fine

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