They're Rivals And 3 Most Powerful Execs: Packaged Goods: Heads of P&G, Colgate, Unilever Looking Global

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They work for fierce global rivals Procter & Gamble Co., Unilever and Colgate-Palmolive Co. But as upper-level ad executives at major package-goods marketers, they have a few things in common.

Three of marketing's most powerful executives are each taking a more global approach as they look for ways to get more bang for advertising bucks, pounds and other currencies. The sheer weight of their budgets, along with their influence in marketing and advertising, have earned them inclusion in Advertising Age's Power 50.

Denis Beausejour, who assumed the No. 2 advertising job at P&G late last month as the company seeks to shave marketing spending from 25% to 20% of net sales, brings a global perspective to his new job. Colgate-Palmolive's Roger Godbeer is spearheading efforts to create new global audience-measurement standards as he oversees Colgate's own recently implemented global agency approach with Young & Rubicam. And Unilever's Ronald Latham is overseeing the second year of a performance bonus system he implemented for global agencies.

$3.3 BILLION BUDGET

At 38, Mr. Beausejour is the youngest member of the group, and oversees the biggest pot of money in P&G's $3.3 billion global budget.

The Canadian native also has arguably the toughest job of the trio. As VP-advertising, he manages the advertising process and P&G's agency relationships during what his boss, Senior VP-Advertising, Market Research & Public Affairs Robert L. Wehling, dubbed "Marketing Breakthrough 2000."

Reducing the share of P&G's revenue spent on marketing to 20% of sales by 2000 is the goal. But the initiative is really about improving productivity and delivering bigger volume and share increases, not cutting costs, Mr. Beausejour says.

Agency executives familiar with Mr. Beausejour from Asia, where he spent more than a decade, saw him improving results there by pushing for better creative.

One agency executive says Mr. Beausejour "really raised the bar in developing better advertising" in China, driving for ad lines that made maximum impact in the musical strains of the Chinese language. On Mr. Beausejour's watch, China became P&G's strongest market in the developing world, generating what competitors estimate is up to $500 million in sales.

DOES THE `UNEXPECTED'

Another Asian agency executive calls Mr. Beausejour "a strong advocate of advertising and doing the unexpected."

In all of the markets where he worked, including Australia, Japan and China, ads "weren't obviously within the P&G mold," the executive says.

One example was an Australian TV ad for Oil of Ulan (Olay in the U.S.) that spoofed the movie "Top Gun." A young pilot at an airfield recognizes a teacher who he mistakenly thinks was a fellow student in his school. She looks younger because she uses the skin cream.

Versions of the ad ran for three years in the late 1980s and in three other P&G regions, and became one of P&G's early "global success models"-ads that are applied successfully in several national markets.

Spoofs may be outside P&G's mold, but Mr. Beausejour saw the ad as a success in conventional P&G terms.

"We considered it successful for one reason: It built the business," he says. "My philosophy about advertising is that in the end, it can only be assessed in one way-what effect did it have on sales, volume and share?"

To accomplish that, ads must be "truly insightful .*.*. touching on a human truth and executed in an engaging and authentic way," Mr. Beausejour says.

Key to finding such truths is understanding consumers, he says: "We want to know the six inches between consumers' ears better than anybody else in the business."

DRIVING FORCE

Knowing more about what's going into those six inches-in terms of global TV, at least-has been a focus for Roger Godbeer, Colgate-Palmolive VP-global media.

The Canadian-born executive has been a driving force in developing proposed new global audience measurement standards that appear on their way to adoption by Advertising Research Foundation, European Broadcasting Union, European Association of Advertising Agencies, Group of European Audience Researchers and World Federation of Advertisers.

The new standards include moving from broad measures of adult viewership to more precise age breakdowns in many global markets, he says. Such improved accountability is essential, he says, as advertisers like Colgate increase global spending.

"If you look at the industry in general and see how demanding they're being in other aspects as to accountability," Mr. Godbeer says, "it's very easy to say we'd better do a better job in advertising."

MONEY WELL SPENT

Part of that job is ensuring Colgate's $561 million global ad budget is well spent. Mr. Godbeer sees consolidation of global advertising with Young & Rubicam earlier this year as a step in the right direction.

"Because we're in so many countries," Mr. Godbeer says, "we need to be assured that we have an agency that will go into these countries and open them up with us."

He also is convinced that "fundamental principles travel" from country to country and that having a single agency gets the word out on such "learnings" faster.

REGULAR SPOT REVIEWS

Even so, Mr. Godbeer conducts spot reviews regularly when he hears about a new media independent in a country on his watch and has time to make a visit.

"I don't think I'm doing my job if I don't see what the competitors have to offer," he says. "Sometimes it works for Y&R and sometimes it doesn't, and I come back with a list of things that need to be corrected."

If Y&R doesn't make the requested changes, the business will become "fair game," he says. "That's part of the understanding we have."

A review of a different sort has left Ronald Latham, VP-advertising for home and personal care products, standing as a force to be reckoned with at Unilever.

Mr. Latham, 62, weathered Europe's 1994 Soap War Fiasco, in which Unilever's new Persil Power detergent brand, containing an "accelerator" designed to improve effectiveness, was found to destroy clothes.

The marketing catastrophe gave rival P&G an overwhelming lead in the European detergents market and prompted Niall Fitzgerald, the new chairman of Unilever's U.K. arm, to undertake the group's most radical shakeup in almost 80 years.

In the wake of the restructuring, Mr. Latham, who wasn't responsible for Persil Power, saw his role boosted. His portfolio of personal care products and fragrances has been expanded to include the troubled detergents division and Helene Curtis Industries, the U.S. haircare giant acquired by Unilever in February.

STRATEGIC WORK

At the restructured Unilever, Mr. Latham's work is on the strategic side, and in his case, through advertising. He controls an ad budget of more than $1 billion, more than half the $2 billion global ad spending of Europe's biggest advertiser.

One of Unilever's recent success stories has been Organics, the "roots-nourishing" shampoo launched nearly three years ago to challenge P&G's Pantene Pro-V brand.

The global TV and print campaign, through J. Walter Thompson Co., London, led to Organics' brand awareness shooting up, running close on the heels of Pantene in most markets.

Even before assuming his new duties, Mr. Latham was instrumental in introducing bonuses for ad agencies' performance that he says are proving successful.

"Before then, the way we remunerated had little to do with results," Mr. Latham says, adding that, two years later, the new system has been "very productive" and "absolutely in the right direction."

Contributing: Laurel Wentz.

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