Power Players 2009

Reckitt's Rob de Groot Is Ad Age's No. 16 Power Player

Little-Known RB Dominates More Famous Rivals When It Comes to the Top Line

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Last Year
THE POWER: Reckitt Benckiser, or RB, as it's coming to be called, has earned respect by beating its global competitive set routinely in top-line growth for more than five years running, with Rob de Groot leading the way. RB also proved it can innovate in marketing with a roughly $25 million online-video buy that makes it likely the biggest player in the emerging sector -- albeit via some substantially discounted inventory.

THE NUMBERS: RB may not be a household name, but continuing organic sales growth north of 8% through the first half of this year in the maws of the deepest recession in most people's memory is substantial, keeping the company at the top of its global competitive set. U.S. measured media spend for 2008 was $475 million. For the first half of 2009, it was down 6.7% to $205 million.

THE KEY LIEUTENANTS: Alexander Lacik, general manager-marketing of the U.S. household business leads marketing for the bulk of RB's U.S. business. He joined with Marc Fonzetti, advertising manager-internet specialist in piloting, then garnering support and pulling the trigger on RB's shift of 5% of its TV budget into online video this year.

THE CHALLENGE: Maintaining momentum won't be easy, particularly as the most direct U.S. competitors, Clorox Co., SC Johnson and Procter & Gamble are likely to step up spending, aided in part by currency tailwinds. The maker of household products is far from a household name, even in its native U.K., leading it to step up corporate branding behind its new identity. That effort includes a global online innovation contest, to help it better compete for talent and partnerships. H1N1 has lifted sales of Lysol, the biggest U.S. brand, but beating those comps will be tough next year. RB also stands to take a hit from loss of patent protection for a small portfolio of prescription drugs.

THE AGENCIES: Havas' Euro RSCG and MPG lead the marketing effort for RB in the U.S. and globally, but RB is in the midst of a global media agency review.

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