Pharmaceutical and CPG giant Johnson & Johnson will soon part ways with chief marketing officer and former Coca-Cola executive Alison Lewis, who spent nearly six years in the role.
“To reach the more than 1 billion people who use our products every day, we have established a new business model that streamlines priorities, allows us to operate more efficiently and increases our investment in categories that offer high potential for growth and where we can make a positive impact on consumers’ lives,” said a spokesperson.
The representative declined to elaborate on that new model but did state that the company does not plan to name a successor in the immediate future. It would appear that Johnson & Johnson has simply eliminated the consumer CMO role after naming Lewis as the first to hold that position in 2013. At this time, it is unclear exactly why Lewis is leaving or where she will go. Her departure will be effective in mid-July.
When asked who will oversee the work formerly handled by Lewis, the spokesperson said, “These responsibilities will be shared by leaders within the Consumer organization.”
Michael Sneed, who joined the company in 1983, will continue to lead global marketing, communications and philanthropic efforts while sitting on J&J’s management committee.
Ad Age first reported the news on Thursday afternoon.
“This is a proud moment for me,” read a statement attributed to Lewis. “After five years as the CMO of Johnson & Johnson, I am ready to pass responsibility to a marketing organization that is agile, close to the consumer and one that possesses a contemporary skill set that will help the Consumer business grow in this rapidly changing environment.”
Her statement continued, “I was brought in to be a change agent, but the talent and passion of the team at Johnson & Johnson also changed me. I will always be inspired by Johnson & Johnson’s purpose to change the trajectory of health for humanity and feel good that I was able to contribute to this noble effort in my own way by building a modern marketing team with the inherent strength to carry these iconic brands forward.”
The news follows an Adweek report from May confirming that J&J had significantly cut its marketing budget in a move that led to layoffs at the dedicated divisions managed by holding companies Omnicom and WPP. Those entities, respectively known as Velocity and The Neighborhood, were born of a closed 2018 review designed to reduce costs and increase the speed of content production, especially in the digital realm.
According to Kantar Media, J&J’s overall marketing spend dropped more than 13% from 2018 to 2019. Multiple sources said the total revenue WPP earned on the business had steadily declined since 2016.
Lewis is the latest in a string of executives to leave the company, which named a new chief financial officer, deputy chairman and head of pharmaceuticals last year. Kathleen Widmer, former president of the consumer group’s OTC division, was also promoted to North American chairman of the group in January.
A 2016 Adweek profile detailing Lewis’ ongoing plans to condense J&J’s massive marketing program used language similar to that of today’s statement. Kantar Media has the company spending $943 million in the U.S. last year.
The company’s overall sales have declined in recent years, and it currently faces legal concerns related to the alleged connection between its talc products and ovarian cancer (which it denies) and its opioid-derived products. Those cases remain active or under appeal.