Google Grabs P&G Exec to Head Sales for YouTube

Hire of Lucas Watson Is Part of Site's Effort to Court Large TV Advertisers

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A correction has been made in this story. See below for details.

Google has hired Procter & Gamble Co. digital marketing director Lucas Watson as VP-sales and marketing for YouTube and video, part of its latest bid to bring TV ad dollars to the world's largest video site.

Lucas Watson
Lucas Watson

As P&G's top digital marketing exec, Mr. Watson was a force behind Old Spice's "The Man Your Man Could Smell Like" video campaign last year. The move comes after extensive courtship of Mr. Watson, just before a planned move to a new role as marketing director in the packaged-goods company's business in Panama.

Google's move for Mr. Watson comes as it looks to make YouTube more brand-friendly and attract more video advertising from big marketers such as P&G, which have long put most of their budgets in TV.

With Mr. Watson, the company gets an executive who has spearheaded a big increase in digital spending at the biggest ad spender in the U.S. and globally over the past three years, though P&G's media budget remains primarily with TV.

After inquiries, Google confirmed the hire to Ad Age : "We're delighted that Lucas will be joining us as Vice President of YouTube Advertising Sales and Marketing, working to further drive our efforts in the rapidly growing video advertising space worldwide," spokesman Rob Shilkin said.

The move appears to have rankled some at P&G, which swapped employees with Google for a time in 2008 as P&G looked to gain digital experience. Mr. Watson is at least the second P&G marketer hired by Google this year, and one person familiar with the companies said the swap was starting to look more like talent sampling for Google.

While declining to comment on his expected move to Google, Mr. Watson did note in an e-mail that he was never part of the exchange. In March, Google hired another P&Ger who was part of that exchange, global laundry brand manager Aaron Lichtig, as sales development manager.

According to people familiar with the matter, P&G worked to keep Mr. Watson, but Google "made an offer too good to refuse."

Mr. Watson was set to begin a new post as a marketing director for P&G in Latin America, based in Panama, along with his wife, Suzanne, who had been a Tide brand manager. It's unclear how Mr. Waston's move will affect Ms. Watson's position at P&G. Mr. Watson was set to begin work in Panama in June.

Such moves to international assignments, seen as a path to general management, have become scarcer in recent years as P&G has sought to limit the number of expatriate managers in a cost-efficiency drive. At the same time, P&G's efforts to thin out its senior-management ranks have also created fewer opportunities for managers like Mr. Watson to move up internally.

Since Mr. Watson took the digital post in 2008, P&G has more than tripled measured internet ad spending to $169 million last year, according to Kantar Media. P&G also had one of the most widely watched social-media and viral-video campaigns ever with the "Responses" effort for Old Spice last year and had several more videos, particularly for Old Spice and Gillette, regularly rank among the 10 most-watched viral ads.

But TV still accounted for nearly 60% of P&G's measured media spend last year, compared with 34% for print and 5% for internet, though the latter data doesn't include search, a large portion of what's spent on video, the cost of behavioral targeting or email and website development.

Google has been working hard to get a bigger slice of spending from marketers like P&G. In a round of speeches to industry groups including the Association of National Advertisers annual conference last year, Jim Lecinski, Google's managing director-U.S. sales and service, made the case that shopper marketing really starts online, particularly with search, as shoppers begin their research and list preparation. He dubbed that time as the "zero moment of truth," a riff on the "first moment of truth" popularized by former P&G Chairman-CEO A.G. Lafley, or the time when shoppers decide on a purchase.

Mr. Watson is currently working on transition with Ilonka Laviz, marketing director for feminine care, as she takes over digital marketing duties for P&G on July 1.

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CORRECTION: An earlier version of the story incorrectly described Mr. Watson as set to head P&G's Latin America business in Panama and begin in July rather than June. Ilonka Laviz assumed P&G's digital marketing post April 1 but has been working with Mr. Watson in transition since then.

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