7: Brad Simmons, VP-media services, Unilever U.S.

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AGENCY ROSTER INCLUDES: Grey Global Group's Grey Worldwide, New York. Interpublic's Campbell Mithun, Minneapolis; Dailey & Associates, Los Angeles; Lowe & Partners Worldwide and McCann Erickson Worldwide, both New York. Omnicom's DDB Worldwide, New York. WPP's Ogilvy & Mather Worldwide, New York and Chicago; J. Walter Thompson USA and MindShare Worldwide, both New York. Amalgamated, New York. Publicis-backed Bartle Bogle Hegarty, N.Y.

POWER PLAY: As the top U.S. marketing executive at Unilever, Mr. Simmons, 49, helped implement a communications planning model years ahead of rivals, starting in 2000. The system, under which a media-neutral communications idea based on consumers' habits guides marketing plans, has led to a far broader marketing mix, including more use of event and experiential efforts. Axe, launched in 2002 and now the No. 3 U.S. men's deodorant brand, is a poster child for the strategy's success.

DOWNSIDE: There have been too few Axe-style successes and too many failures-from the decay of Unilever's laundry detergent business to losses in the bulk of its haircare portfolio that can't make up for gains by Dove. After slashing yearend ad spending amid overall disappointing results last year, Unilever appears resolved to maintain support through 2004. Despite five years of restructuring, sales of Unilever's leading brands are expected to decline this year globally; North American results should be better. Mr. Simmons and Unilever's other marketing execs bear little blame for key problems in business fundamentals.

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