Jiri Kulik's interest in digital marketing isn't just professional, it's personal: He was scheduled to be on the United Airlines Flight 93 on Sept. 11, 2001, that went down in Shanksville, Pa., but changed plans to visit E-centives, a digital-promotion vendor, in Bethesda, Md.
Reckitt Benckiser's new North American marketing chief is steeped in digital marketing and believes the second wave of digital media he's been part of will be the one that succeeds. Under Mr. Kulik's predecessor, Andrew Lacik, who left to head RB's global home-care business, the company spent more than $20 million on online video each of the past two years. Mr. Kulik sees no reason to change RB's standing as the biggest spender in the medium.
Digital is part of his plan to do what RB brought him to the U.S. for from his most recent stop as general manager for South Africa. Among other things in his career, he's helped double dishwasher penetration in Turkey. Now he's relying heavily on digital media to rekindle growth in a U.S. market where household penetration for seemingly unavoidable products like toilet-bowl cleaner has been declining lately.
But while Mr. Kulik was always a digital pioneer, he wasn't always a true believer. He was RB's representative to the Transora digital supply-chain alliance for packaged-goods companies in the late 1990s and spearheaded the marketer's Home Solutions News online relationship program. Even so, he told the company's board in 2002 that online advertising wasn't likely to make an impact anytime soon. "People didn't want to have a relationship with their toilet-bowl cleaner," Mr. Kulik said, plus lack of broadband made video ads virtually impossible.
This may not have seemed a politically astute message for the company's director of business-to-consumer internet marketing. But it did help advance his career. He got sent to Turkey to become marketing director and began working on getting more people to use and buy dishwashers, ultimately helping RB make Turkey the No. 4 market for its dishwasher detergent brand Finish and increase sales more than six times.