And two of the most powerful executives in package goods marketing are out to reverse that slide.
Denis Beausejour, 41, has been keeping a lower profile this year than he did in1998, when he captured the attention of the marketing world by launching the Future of Advertising Stakeholders summit to plot a course for interactive marketing. Since then his role at P&G has broadened and his impact deepened in his new role as VP-marketing.
His duties now cover all areas of marketing as P&G strives to develop "holistic" communications with consumers.
"We've got to grow top-line sales growth," Mr. Beausejour said in an interview earlier this year. ". . .And we have to take advantage of the fact we're big, to leverage scale and to speed up decision making."
The Agency Relationship Renewal project -- spearheaded in 1995 upon his arrival in the U.S. following a tour of duty in Asia -- is an effort to facilitate that course of action. The project has changed how P&G works with advertising agencies. It includes a new compensation system based on a percentage of sales and a new policy that assigns "single-point accountability" to a P&G executive for every advertising project.
Mr. Beausejour also has become VP-marketing for P&G's global beauty-care unit, created as part of the company's Organization 2005 restructuring. He joins A.G. Lafley, president-global beauty care, as they try to right a cosmetics and skincare business that has been losing share for years and a haircare business that faces increasingly strong competition.
In the beauty care assignment, Mr. Beausejour gets a chance to put talk about interactive marketing into practice. He heads the project team for Reflect.com, P&G's $50 million e-commerce joint venture with Silicon Valley venture capital fund Institutional Venture Partners.
Reflect.com, which will market a new brand of cosmetics custom-formulated for consumers, marks P&G's biggest effort ever to sell products direct to consumers.
Unilever has yet to travel the consumer-direct route, but it has made interactive communications with consumers a top priority, with an estimated $100 million commitment to Internet marketing ventures this year.
Richard Goldstein, 57, Unilever's President-CEO for the U.S., has been the point man for Unilever's interactive push, which has seen the company become the biggest interactive advertiser among package-goods companies and among the biggest advertisers of any kind on female-oriented sites.
He will play a leadership role in Unilever's newest global initiative to pare two thirds of its 1,200 global brands and focus on the 400 that account for 90% of the company's sales.
Though overseas brands are expected to make up most of those ultimately pared, Mr. Goldstein will be taking a hard look at laggards in the U.S. The program should also result in stronger and more consistent support for such leading U.S.