GlaxoSmithKline begins marketing overhaul amid Pfizer merger

GSK's headquarters in Brentford

GlaxoSmithKline Consumer Healthcare is to restructure its media, marketing and digital units in anticipation of the upcoming mega-merger with fellow pharma giant Pfizer being rubber-stamped later this year. Current marketing boss Carlton Lawson is to depart and be replaced by EMEA head Tamara Rogers.

The deal was announced last December and is still subject to anti-trust approval. If given the green light it will form the largest over-the-counter medicine company in the world.

Despite the lingering uncertainty of the outcome, expected in the second half of 2019, GSK has commenced a significant restructure of the business, including its marketing department, as detailed in an internal email seen by The Drum.

Carlton Lawson, head of global categories and chief marketing officer, is to leave. In his place, EMEA head Tamara Rogers will lead eight new category heads within the consumer healthcare business. Rogers will also have take control of its media spend, estimated to be worth $1.7bn.

This global account was won by Publicis Groupe last year and is operated by a handpicked team across the Groupe called PlatformGSK.

Rogers joined the company in January 2018 from Unilever where she spent half a decade leading deodorant and personal care units.

Four newly appointed global marketing leaders will report into Rogers. They include category heads for oral health, pain relief, cold & flu + allergy & OTC, dermatology and wellness.

Nutrition chief Jayant Singh will lead oral health while Theresa Agnew, area general manager for Australian and New Zealand will lead pain relief. Jonathan Girling, head of respiratory, has moved to the cold & flu category while LatAm head Rick Sheppard takes up the mantle at wellness.

They are all tasked with building growth strategies, driving innovation and forming expert programs.

Another four appointments have taken on roles heading up 'marketing edge', design, portfolio strategy, and expert groups.

Meredith Herman, vice president, global content and PR lead, is now the designate head of marketing edge, a team that has brought together content & PR and media with marketing operations and marketing capability.

Herman previously ran global content and PR lead. In the email sent to staff, GSK made no mention of what the shake-up meant for GSK vice president and global head of media, Scott Grenz - who was deeply involved in the media pitch - and his team. However, it pointed out: “They already have an excellent working relationship with Meredith [Herman]”.

Andrew Barraclough, head of design, is now the designate head of design, tasked with creative stewardship and “governance of the brands”. Leading expert is Tess Player, she is currently head of expert marketing at oral & skin care.

The hiring of the role of head of the strategic portfolio strategy has yet to be filled, as has the head of strategic portfolio management and whitespace, integration head for global media, the head of data and transformation and the digital commerce teams.

The digital department will also be shuffled, or "evolved" as GSK put it to staff.

Marc Speichert, global chief digital officer, “will play a crucial role in helping to transform” the business. He has been tasked with building out the digital, data and analytics capabilities across consumer and customer. He will also handle some e-commerce responsibilities.

There are now two new digital teams; the Digital Garage and Next teams. These are the “evolution” of the Digital Brand Incubator (DBI) and Digital Innovation Hub (DIH) teams and are tooled for greater responsibility across a broader portfolio.

Kevin O’Leary, head of ecommerce at GSK Consumer will lead the Digital Garage team, briefed with experimenting to aid its “strategic growth bets”.

Nick Tate, vice president of global digital innovation, has become the Next team lead, and will drive “disruptive future innovation” ‘beyond the pill’.

Confirming the shake-up, a GSK spokesperson told The Drum: "GSK Consumer Healthcare recently made some designate senior leader appointments for its proposed joint venture with Pfizer Consumer Healthcare.

"The designate appointments, which include leaders from both businesses, would only be effective once the proposed joint venture closes, which is expected sometime in the second half of 2019. Until then nothing changes, the current leadership teams remain in place, and both companies continue to operate business as usual."

GSK also confirmed that Brian McNamara will be designate chief executive and Tobias Hestler as a designate chief finance officer.

The shuffle primes the £9.8bn joint venture to “synergise” its category-leading brands. GSK will take a 68% stake against Pfizer’s 32%. The resulting “highly complementary portfolio” in consumer health will include GSK’s Sensodyne, Voltaren and Panadol, and Pfizer’s Advil, Centrum and Caltrate. The group expects “substantial cost synergies” from the merger, around £0.5bn a year by 2022.

It is currently selling off non-essential consumer health to raise $1.26bn before the merger and meet anti-trust standards, particularly in the EU.

In the coming years, it plots the creation of two new UK-based global companies focused on Pharmaceuticals/Vaccines and Consumer Healthcare.

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