Sharp Pulls Plug on U.S. Marketing, Communications Department

Beleaguered Electronics Retailer Cuts All Positions; CMO Role Eliminated

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Sharp Electronics Corp. has eliminated its entire U.S. marketing and communications department.

Numerous people familiar with the matter told Ad Age that the 12-person department, consisting of PR, advertising, social media, sports marketing and promotions, received word that their positions would be cut last week. The majority of the department was asked to leave that same day. Chief Marketing Officer Bob Scaglione is still at the company, but his role will also be eliminated, numerous executives told Ad Age .

Sharp sent Ad Age the following statement through its PR agency, Ketchum: "The functions of its Marketing and Communications Department will now be contained within its individual business units. These actions will enable us to more fully integrate marketing and product development activities directly within business units they serve and streamline decision making. Our goal is to create a more nimble organization that is better equipped to innovate as fast as our customers and our industry require."

Mr. Scaglione, as well as other executives in the department contacted, did not respond to requests for comment.

Mr. Scaglione joined Sharp in 1989 as sales manager for audio and video products, according to a release announcing his promotion to CMO in 2010. Other top positions in the department included PR director Jeff Leopold, senior director of advertising Neal Lattner and director of digital marketing strategy Sam Ingram.

According to the Wall Street Journal, Sharp is expected to lay off as many as 3,000 positions, mostly in Japan, and post a quarterly loss of over $1 billion in its upcoming earnings report. Last year, the company lost more than $4 billion, and it recently paid almost $200 million in an alleged price-fixing settlement in the U.S.

The company nearly cut its U.S. measured media spending in half last year, according to Kantar. It spent $18.8 million in 2011, down from the $41.4 million it spent in 2010. The company continues to focus on its retail strategy, but it has whittled down its presence in sports, noted one industry executive. For example, it didn't renew a multi-year partnership with Major League Baseball.

This May, the company named Toshiyuki Osawa CEO-chairman of the Board of the Sharp Electronics Corp., which is the U.S. sales and marketing subsidiary of the Japanese company. He was also named group general manager of the North and South America Group of Sharp.

The layoffs aren't expected to affect Sharp's relationships with its agencies, including Ketchum and McGarryBowen. Both agencies declined to comment.

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