P&G Reviews Aim To Streamline Global PR Support Across 4 Business Units
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P&G Reviews Aim To Streamline Global PR Support Across 4 Business Units

P&G global comms director Damon Jones opens up about plans to consolidate the FMCG giant's PR roster across its biggest brands.

Arun Sudhaman

P&G Reviews Aim To Streamline Global PR Support Across 4 Business Units

CINCINNATI — P&G is aiming to consolidate global PR support for all four of its key business units, as part of the FMCG giant's overall effort to simplify operations and slash agency costs.

P&G global company communications director Damon Jones confirmed to the Holmes Report that the reviews would affect PR agencies working for brands across its four major product categories: beauty; fabric and home care; baby, family and feminine care; and health and grooming.

The reviews come after P&G previously announced plans to cut as much as $500m from the $1bn that it spends on agencies. "We’re reviewing work broadly across all our agency partners (traditional advertising, digital, media and PR) to see how we can simplify our operations and overall strengthen our brand building efforts while driving greater reach, higher frequency and greater effectiveness at less overall cost," said Jones, in an expansive email interview with the Holmes Report.

Agency planning for the ongoing PR reviews has been underway for several months now. Omnicom, for example, has put in place a cross-agency team called MMK+ that has already consolidated global business, including fabric care. The unit is led byMarina Maher Communications (MMC) and also features sibling firms Ketchum, FleishmanHillard and Porter Novelli.

Similar initiatives are underway at other holding groups, including Interpublic and Publicis, with more than one source noting that the process is likely to play into the hands of bigger MNC groups. "P&G is going through all agencies, trying to consolidate wherever it can," said a source. "It is looking for greater efficiencies."

"We’re looking at all aspects of the work, starting with our major product categories – and the work is global in scope," said Jones. "The needs of each of the business units is different, so there will be likely different solutions – and perhaps different partners – for various categories."

Jones added that some business units are at a more advanced stage than others. "The different categories began their reviews at different times, so it’s not clear that we will be in a position to share the decisions all at the same time," he said. It is thought that beauty and grooming will complete before the end of the year, with all reviews expected to conclude by the time P&G's fiscal year ends in June 2016.

The beauty category review, noted Jones, is also partly driven by P&G's sale of 43 brands to Coty, including Clairol, Covergirl and Max Factor, along with professional hair care and fine fragrance brands. P&G's remaining beauty business is anchored by big sellers such as Pantene, Head & Shoulders, Herbal Essences, Olay and SKII. The grooming side, meanwhile, covers Gillette and Braun.

Major PR agency partners across beauty and grooming are MSLGroup, Ketchum, H+K Strategies, MMC, DeVries, Citizen Relations and Porter Novelli, said Jones, all of whom are involved in the current review.

"We have dozens of agencies around the world working on our brands with various remits: global, regional or single-country," added Jones. "As part of this review, we will work to understand what is the best combination of global, regional and local to meet the needs of the various businesses. I’m not a liberty to disclose which agencies are in consideration for individual components of the business, but all of our global incumbents are involved."

It is largely the same group of agencies that works on the other P&G business units that are in play. MSLGroup, for example, has seen considerable success from its iconic #LikeAGirl campaign for feminine care brand Always and has business across other divisions, including health and home care. Citizen Relations, meanwhile, has produced award-winning efforts for Old Spice, and also works on Pampers and several other brands.

Jones was unable to provide details regarding budgets or contract length, but noted that P&G typically prefers longer-term agreements. "We think that helps drive true partnership behavior," he said. "I wouldn’t expect a drastic change in that, but again the negotiations are underway so I can’t say that with certainty."

Jones returned to the US earlier this year to take on his new role, after serving as Asia-Pacific communications head since 2012. He has been with P&G for 18 years.

Unsurprisingly, none of the P&G agencies mentioned in this story were able to comment on the ongoing reviews.

P&G's efforts to transform its business include offloading less profitable brands and cutting headcount, amid disappointing recent results. Including the Coty sale, the company plans to divest 100 brands to focus on faster-growing products. It is also cutting costs aggressively, but has struggled to grow revenue and maintain market share.

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