John Costello to Oversee Home Improvement Chain Marketing

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SAN FRANCISCO ( -- Veteran marketing executive John Costello is leaving his job as chief global marketing officer at Yahoo! after less than a year to take over as executive vice president and chief marketing officer for Home Depot.

Mr. Costello said he will report directly to Bob Nardelli, Home Depot's chairman, president and CEO, and that his duties will include responsibility for worldwide marketing, advertising and branding strategy. Mr. Costello also said he will be part of the senior leadership team developing strategy for the retailer's long-range plan to double sales to $100 billion over an unspecified period of time.

Position vacant
Home Depot's top marketing post has been vacant since last year when the retailer's vice president for marketing, Dick Sullivan, left. Mr. Sullivan subsequently became executive vice president of marketing for the National Football League's Atlanta Falcons franchise.

Mr. Costello, 55, comes to Home Depot at a time when the home improvement retailer faces stiff competition

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from the likes of retail behemoth Wal-Mart and the fast-growing Lowe's Cos. chain. Lowe's has recently positioned itself as more female-friendly by carrying products such as pillows and fabrics.

Marketing dollars
Mr. Nardelli said Mr. Costello will "assess the landscape" and decide whether the retailer will need to spend more on marketing or to use current dollars differently. Mr. Nardelli said Home Depot currently is redesigning rug, faucet and other presentations and soon will significantly expand its appliance selections.

Home Depot spent $362 million in advertising in 2001 and $224 million for the first seven months of this year, according to Taylor Nelson Sofres' CMR.

As senior executive vice president of marketing for Sears, Roebuck & Co. from 1993 to 1998, Mr. Costello helped develop the retailer's "softer side" campaign, part of a strategy to move beyond its solid appliance and hardware base and into the more profitable apparel and other softline products.

Sears agency review
During his tenure there, he conducted a review for a new advertising agency, hiring Y&R Advertising for softlines and retaining Ogilvy & Mather Worldwide for hardlines and automotive advertising. Both agencies are now part of the WPP Group. By the time Mr. Costello left, the softer-side campaign was starting to fray and was quickly replaced by a more promotional sales-driven ad campaign.

At Sears, Mr. Costello helped reposition the Kenmore and Craftsman brands. At Home Depot, he will try his hand at grabbing a bigger share of the $20 billion major home appliance market and building up Home Depot's private label lines, such as Husky tools.

Mr. Costello, who starts at Home Depot Nov. 4, said he is not considering an agency review at this time. Independent shop Richards Group, Dallas, is Home Depot's agency of record.

'Hard to leave'
Mr. Costello said it was "very hard to leave" Yahoo!, which he joined last November, and he remains "very optimistic about Yahoo's future." Yahoo's agency is Black Rocket Euro RSCG, San Francisco. The Internet company has retained executive recruitment firm Spencer Stuart to find a replacement for Mr. Costello.

Yahoo! executives declined to discuss Mr. Costello's departure, but issued a statement saying Mr. Costello "has helped build a very strong marketing team, maintained our position as the number one Internet brand and developed our initial efforts in consumer direct marketing."

In a career spanning 25 years, Mr. Costello began in brand management and marketing positions at Procter & Gamble Co. He later was senior vice president of sales and marketing at Pepsi-Cola USA and then moved to president and chief operating officer of Nielsen Marketing Research USA. He was also past chairman of the Association of National Advertisers.

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