Drops agency: P&G rethinks online strategy

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Procter & Gamble Co. is dropping Grey Global Group's Beyond Interactive, New York, as interactive media-buying agency of record, effective next month, as it decentralizes marketing efforts in the discipline.

The move comes as one of P&G's top interactive-marketing executives, Doug Milne, director of its SmartWorks targeted-marketing unit, left last week for a new marketing post at Masterfoods USA. Mr. Milne won't be replaced, a P&G spokeswoman said. Instead, SmartWorks marketing specialists who reported to him will now work with Lisa Hillenbrand, who oversees other corporate-marketing functions.

The shifts signal that P&G, which once led the push to set the ground rules for interactive marketing by hosting the 1998 Future of Advertising Stakeholders conference, is now letting its brands develop their own strategies. "We've decided to decentralize our interactive-media buying to allow our brands to be more effective at creating holistic media plans," said a P&G spokeswoman.

Mr. Milne said his departure was prompted by a new opportunity, not by P&G's decentralization. Interactive and direct marketing "needs to be run out of the brand groups for them ultimately to be a success," he said, adding that P&G "doesn't need flag wavers to keep it going."

An executive familiar with the company's interactive marketing said excess online ad inventory was piling up, in some cases under centralized buying, and that pooling interactive buys still didn't make P&G a major player in the medium.

While P&G is the No. 2 media advertiser in the U.S., it's not among the top 10 online advertisers. P&G spent $10.9 million in 2001 on Internet ads, according to Taylor Nelson Sofres' CMR, up 5% from 2000.

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