Kimberly-Clark Corp. has launched a creative review for its global baby care business, according to people familiar with the matter. Incumbent WPP, including longtime Huggies agency Ogilvy, is defending, with MDC Partners and possibly a third holding company in the mix.
Interpublic’s FCB last year elbowed WPP and Wunderman Thompson (formerly JWT) aside to win K-C’s global family-care creative business. But it isn’t participating in any new K-C review, according to a person familiar with the business, given that it’s still “on boarding” considerable work from the marketer.
Spokespeople for WPP, MDC and FCB referred queries to Kimberly-Clark, whose spokesman declined to comment specifically on “the status or scope of our agency relationships,” but said: “We regularly review our agency relationships, global and local, to ensure that we remain in touch with the latest capabilities.”
K-C’s baby-care business is led by Huggies and also includes Pull-Ups and Goodnites, which collectively got $90 million in U.S. measured media support last year, according to Kantar. But K-C CEO Mike Hsu said at the Barclay’s investor conference earlier this month that developing markets, which account for 90 percent of global births, are a top priority for the business.
Kimberly-Clark has been reviewing creative assignments across the company since last year, when FCB was awarded a new global family-care strategic and creative assignment spanning brands that include Kleenex, Cottonelle, Scott, Andrex and Viva.
Giusy Buonfantino, formerly president of K-C’s baby and child-care business in North America, became the company's chief marketing officer last year, so she’s quite familiar with work done on the brands in recent years. The prior family-care review began on the watch of her predecessor, Scott Usitalo, but ended after Buonfantino took charge.
K-C in July appointed Jeff Brecker, former senior VP and managing director of the Chicago office of Interpublic’s R/GA, as VP of global creative, design and content.
The review follows relatively strong performance for K-C and its baby care business last quarter. The company posted organic sales growth of 5 percent globally, led by the personal care business (of which baby care is the leading component). In North America, baby care volume grew “low single digits,” the company said, offsetting a mid-single-digit decline in feminine care. Combined with price increases to offset commodity costs, North American personal-care sales grew 5 percent in the quarter, led by baby care.
Those results were fueled in part by retail sell-in behind the July U.S. launch of the super-premium Huggies Special Delivery line in black packaging that’s unusual for the category.