The package goods giant is out to prove that the departure of new-media guru Robert Herbold for Microsoft Corp. won't derail the company's highly visible efforts to encourage a role for advertising in the shifting media landscape. Robert Wehling, 55, a 34-year P&G veteran, is taking over for Mr. Herbold as senior VP-advertising and market research.
Mr. Wehling, who earlier this year became senior VP-public affairs and has risen through the rigorous marketing ranks, will be P&G's point person on new media within the company and outside. He will replace Mr. Herbold as a key member of the marketing industry's Coalition for Advertising-Supported Information & Entertainment.
The task force, formed last summer under the guidance of the American Association of Advertising Agencies and the Association of National Advertisers, is the brainchild of Mr. Wehling's boss, P&G Chairman-Chief Executive Edwin Artzt. Mr. Artzt sounded an alarm at the Four A's annual meeting last May, warning agencies not to be left behind as new media technologies emerge.
Mr. Wehling, therefore, is not about to be left behind on an issue that has become something of a cause celebre for his chief executive.
Well-known to the ad community but not yet viewed as a new-media presence, Mr. Wehling bristles at the suggestion that a change in players might impact P&G's commitment to the industry's efforts.
"We're going to do everything we can to work with the Four A's and the ANA to support their effort in moving this thing forward," he said.
On Nov. 2, the morning after his appointment was announced, Mr. Wehling called Four A's President-CEO Burtch Drake and ANA President-CEO John Sarsen to discuss his role in industry efforts. Mr. Wehling will attend a task force meeting scheduled for Nov. 21 in New York. The agenda includes setting a date for a superhighway summit. Mr. Wehling succeeds Mr. Herbold as chairman of the subcommittee on development of ad-supported services by new-media providers.
"There's no apparent change whatsoever, nor will there be any less attention on the subject from P&G," Mr. Drake said.
P&G's own new-media efforts will continue under Mr. Wehling. The company is considering testing online applications, possibly on the Internet, and its Cover Girl brand will participate in Time Warner's interactive TV test in Orlando, Fla. In addition, two programming deals are on the table with undisclosed entertainment houses to explore new-media projects, although nothing's been signed.
"I want to help move things forward," Mr. Weh-ling said. "I don't intend to disrupt any work in progress."
He will soon make the rounds of P&G agencies to convince agency executives that he will be as hands-on as Mr. Herbold.
"Bob Wehling has plenty of opportunity to jump in and have a huge effect on new media," said one senior executive at a P&G agency. "Projects continue to evolve and his involvement will start to grow."