Procter & Gamble Divests Pur but Retains Philanthropic Program

TBWA Loses Work From CPG Giant's Roster in Divestiture

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

Procter & Gamble divesting its Pur water-purification brand, but giving an extension to another very old one at the same time.

P&G is retaining the philanthropic portion of the Pur business and rebranding it with the corporate logo -- marking the first time the company has put its corporate brand so prominently on packaged goods for more than a century.

P&G has agreed to sell Pur to Helen of Troy in a deal expected to close by year end. Terms of the deal weren't disclosed, but Helen of Troy said Pur sales are expected to hit $110 million in 2012. P&G had high hopes for Pur when it purchased the brand for $213 million in 1999, according to a research note from Deutsche Bank, which said sales grew from $71 million that year to $160 million in 2005.

The Pur water-filtration system
The Pur water-filtration system

The divestiture appears to eliminate the last known P&G brand assignment for Omnicom's TBWA/Chiat Day, Playa Del Rey, Calif., which landed the Pur account in 2007. A P&G spokeswoman said TBWA handles other work for P&G, but declined to specify the work.* P&G spent $7.7 million on measured media for Pur in 2010 and less than $1 million through the first six months of 2011, according to Kantar Media.

Tom Finn, president of P&G global personal health, said in a statement that Pur "has outstanding products, a powerful equity, a strong market position and a compelling pipeline of new initiatives. But after determining the water-purification category is not core to P&G's long-term portfolio, we are pleased to sell it to a company for whom it is a close fit and where it will receive greater focus."

Helen of Troy markets such brands as Oxo and a variety of hair and health appliances under a number of brand names, including Revlon and Dr. Scholl's. It's also been a serial acquirer of P&G orphan brands, including Pert Plus , Sure and Infusium23.

Water purification has become a much bigger business for others both in the U.S. and globally. Clorox Co.'s Brita is the prohibitive market leader in the U.S., with a 67% to 26% market share lead over P&G in water filters last year, according to SymphonyIRI data from Deutsche Bank. And Unilever has stated ambitious goals for its water-purification business globally, last year setting the target of having its PureIt water-filtration brand provide safe drinking water to 500 million people -- more than currently living in South America -- by 2020.

Pur also has been central to P&G's global corporate social responsibility and sustainability efforts through the company's Children's Safe Drinking Water program. Pur's water-purification packets, which allow turbid, unsafe drinking water to be turned into clear, drinkable water, made for dramatic demonstrations as Pur kept tabs on the millions of liters of water purified in much of the world.

But the packets never made much money, since the people who needed them most had little or none. So in recent years P&G made them a sort of corporate, philanthropic venture, one that with the divestiture of Pur it is taking one step further by adding the P&G logo.

The packets, primarily distributed overseas through more than 100 not-for-profit partners, will be the first packaged goods to prominently display the P&G logo since "P and G -- The White Naptha Soap" was marketed in 1904, Ms. Ratchford said.

The move is an extension of the effort begun with the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, which included a "Proud Sponsor of Moms" corporate ad campaign headed by Wieden & Kennedy, Portland, Ore.,

"This is an opportunity for us to put our name on something that captures the essence of who we are as a company," Ms. Ratchford said. "It's about touching and improving lives. It's about saving lives, which is really the ultimate way to improve them."

The P&G water-purifications packets are an entry-level product for many markets, which need them badly even if people can't pay for them. The company now sells products to 4.4 billion of the world's consumers, she said, "and we can't reach all 7 billion of them right now, but we can reach a lot of them altruistically."

Among agencies working on the P&G Children's Safe Drinking Water program and Purifier of Water packets is WPP's Possible Worldwide, Cincinnati.

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CORRECTION: Story was corrected to show statement from P&G spokeswoman that TBWA handles other work for P&G.

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