Melanie Healey

Procter & Gamble Co.

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There are many ways to think about feminine care, including the one many people prefer: not at all.

Melanie Healey isn't one of those people. In fact, the group president-feminine and health care at Procter & Gamble Co. says the best way to think about feminine care is the same way marketers think about a more-glamorous business in the company, men's shaving -- as a rite of passage for girls.

Such thinking has helped P&G, which has gone from a slowdown for Always and a struggle for Tampax to rapid acceleration of both since Ms. Healey took over the North American "FemCare" business in 2001.

The blond, blue-eyed Brazilian is about as global as managers come. Her father is British, her mother Chilean and her grandfather Peruvian, and both her children were born in Mexico. As a holder of Brazilian and British passports along with a U.S. green card, Ms. Healey jokes that "between the three of them, there are maybe two countries in the world I need a visa for."

She's also conversant in package-goods dialects besides Proctoid, being a relatively rare P&G senior manager who spent the early part of her career outside the company before joining at 29. Ms. Healey, 47, was brand manager for SC Johnson & Son and Johnson & Johnson in her native Brazil for seven years before joining P&G as brand manager in 1990.

"I know how our competitors think," Ms. Healey says, "and how they think about us, too."

P&G's FemCare business has been one of its most consistent growers in the U.S. and beyond under Ms. Healey, backed by some edgy advertising such as Always' "Have a happy period" campaign and a fairly daring print effort to back the website BeingGirl that won a gold Lion at Cannes.

"I haven't ever left a meeting with [Ms. Healey] thinking, 'What was that about?' " says Catherine Guthrie, president-multinational accounts at Leo Burnett Co. "She's smart but also sensible. And she's a good listener."

Last year, Ms. Healey added global health care to her duties and took on some big challenges. But if anyone is suited to go from a business P&G dominates to one where it's an underdog, it's Ms. Healey. She joined P&G in Brazil, where it was an also-ran to Unilever, fought entrenched Colgate-Palmolive Co. in Mexico, then helped overcome Kimberly-Clark Corp. in Latin America by launching the Naturella value brand.

"We've been working very hard on our health-care strategy," Ms. Healey says. "We hope to be one of the future engines of growth of the company."
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