Media Mavens 2010

Media Mavens: Lakish Hatalkar, Novartis Consumer Healthcare

Former P&G Innovator Draws on Brand-Management Past to Create Sense of Culture at Health-Care Marketer

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NEW YORK ( -- After 13 years at Procter & Gamble Co., much of it spent developing media capabilities for the company on three continents, Lakish Hatalkar was looking for something a bit more entrepreneurial and a chance to help build a newer marketing culture last year.

Novartis Consumer Healthcare may not exactly be a new player. But the marketer of brands such as Excedrin, Prevacid, Theraflu, Triaminic, Ciba contact lenses and Interceptor heartworm medicine for pets hasn't exactly had a culture of its own, either. Made up of employees who started their careers at P&G, Unilever, Reckitt Benckiser, Johnson & Johnson and others, the U.S. consumer unit of the $47 billion Swiss drug company has been something of a polyglot culture.

Lakish Hatalkar
Lakish Hatalkar

It's up to Mr. Hatalkar to create a "Novartis way" of communications planning from a company that has had a lot of other companies' ways, depending on the particular manager in charge, up to now. In doing so, he'll draw heavily on experience he had working with former P&G Global Marketing Officer Jim Stengel and former VP-Global Media Bernhard Glock in developing the brand-building framework of that company last decade.

To be sure, Novartis is already posing a bigger threat to some of those big competitors from which it's drawn talent, having taken share from P&G's Prilosec with its launch of Prevacid OTC heartburn medicine last year with heavy in-store marketing support, and working to help Triaminic hike spending and capture share in children's cold products shed by J&J due to serial recalls.

As head of integrated marketing communications, package design and innovation for Novartis consumer brands, Mr. Hatalkar is taking on functions not normally rolled into a media job. "The No. 1 media vehicle for any packaged-goods brand," Mr. Hatalkar said, "is the package."

Such an encompassing role is a natural one for Mr. Hatalkar, who's been a jack of all trades. The Indian native went through U.S. colleges on tennis scholarships but realized he wouldn't be able to turn pro. He opted for chemical engineering instead, then joined P&G in information technology in 1997 before switching to brand management a year later.

He liked the marketing aspect of the job the best, as opposed to general-management functions. But he kept moving between corporate-marketing, media and brand-management roles, so he could keep applying the theory and training he developed at P&G.

Mr. Hatalkar "was at the forefront of media innovation at P&G during my years as global marketing officer," Mr. Stengel said. "He personally helped lead P&G from a prosaic approach to media to an enlightened approach." To that end, Mr. Hatalkar served a stint working P&G's lead global media shop Starcom MediaVest Group.

At Novartis, "Lakish made an instant impact the moment he arrived at Novartis," said Lee Doyle, North America CEO of Novartis' media shop MEC. "He has completely transformed the way we are approaching communications plans development. ... We've reshaped the team to better integrate the online and offline experts."

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