The Player: Brase playing by new rules in managing Charmin at P&G

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It may have been surprising when Procter & Gamble Co., which never advertised on the Super Bowl before Feb. 1, chose Charmin, arguably one of its least glamorous brands, for its debut. But an equally unlikely story is that of the brand manager behind the ad, who spent his first 10 years at P&G in sales and only three years ago moved into marketing.

John Brase, 36, has moved fast since then. Like every P&G transfer into marketing, he had to start at the bottom as an assistant brand manager. But his first job was a crucial one, handling Pampers Easy-Ups, P&G's third try at cracking a training-pants market owned by rival Kimberly-Clark's Pull-Ups. Success of the launch has been a key in Pampers' past two consecutive years of market-share gains.

Mr. Brase then spent a year as brand manager for non-diaper products in baby care, including baby wipes and bibs. Then, in mid-2003, he became brand manager of Charmin.

Such rapid moves are supposed to be a thing of the past at P&G, which stresses staying in jobs longer these days. But while Mr. Brase is new to his job, he's a veteran with the brands he handles. His 10 years in sales were in paper, including stints in Bentonville, Ark., as the top sales executive over P&G's huge diaper business at Wal-Mart Stores and liaison based in Cincinnati between marketing and sales for P&G paper brands.

"John is a really bright guy with good people skills and business sense," said Mike Nazarro, president of marketing intelligence firm Intelliseek and himself a former Charmin brand manager. "He knows all the marketing issues, but also has a very deep understanding of the retail trade, which is a powerful combination."

Wal-Mart is five times P&G's size today, though P&G was bigger than Wal-Mart when Mr. Brase began his sales career. "That's a change you have to be very mindful of and understand the impact," Mr. Brase said. "I hope I bring an appreciation of the importance of winning with a big customer like Wal-Mart."

charmin vs. bud light

Winning P&G's Super Bowl spot was a game that Mr. Brase played by new rules. "We really blew up the creative process with Publicis [Worldwide, New York]," he said. "There were very few mandatories in our brief, which is kind of a novel concept for us, and really let them unleash their creative powers."

The ad, which marks the Charmin bear's move from ad icon to package trademark, is an example of how P&G needs to entertain consumers as well as inform, Mr. Brase said. "We're not just competing with the Northerns and Cottonelles of the world, but also the Bud Lights and the FedExs."

He was confident enough that, before Charmin won the contest, he bet $10,000 of his marketing budget to rework creative for previously scheduled displays-which hit stores in January-with the ad's "Soft and Strong for Your Endzone" tagline.

Name: John Brase

Age: 36

Now: P&G's Charmin brand manager

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