After pharma giant GlaxoSmithKline sent a larger share of its business to WPP’s Grey, that shop has promoted partner Jason Kahner, who led that business, to the role of global managing director overseeing the agency’s relationship with the client.
Last month we learned that GSK had concluded a review by consolidating its business with 9 agencies across 4 holding companies. Company reps referred to the move as an “agency simplification,” but it actually complicated GSK’s roster by adding IPG in the form of McCann Health and assigning various “advertising, digital, content and PR” duties to Weber Shandwick.
Grey had already handled four of GSK’s seven most popular products or “power brands,” including Sensodyne and Poligrip — and the review sent nasal decongestant Otrivin to Grey as well. (Saatchi & Saatchi currently handles the two remaining power brands, Theraflu and Voltaren, after winning them in a 2004 review.)
In an internal memo, CEO Jim Heekin called GSK’s decision “a tremendous vote of confidence in our partnership that began in 1955,” and he followed less than two weeks later by promoting Kahner.
Here’s the full internal memo sent out this morning:
I am very pleased to announce that Jason Kahner has been promoted to Global Managing Director, overseeing Grey’s GlaxoSmithKline relationship, based in New York. He succeeds Alina Kessel whose new role, leading Team P&G for WPP, was announced last week.
Jason has worked on GSK for seven years, serving most recently as a Partner, Regional Lead for the Americas. Under his leadership, Grey’s GSK portfolio has grown steadily with significant wins and, together, we have produced exciting, innovative creative garnering Cannes recognition and marketplace success.
Since joining Grey in 2005, Jason has overseen accounts in every category including HSBC, GE, NFL, AARP, The National Parks, Allergan, Microsoft and Kmart. His energy, strategic counsel and success at team-building has won the admiration of clients and colleagues alike.
Please give him your congratulations on this well-deserved promotion and your full support as we help GSK seize the future.
GREYgroup | Famously effective since 1917
Jim Heekin, Chairman & CEO
200 Fifth Avenue
New York, NY 10010
Kahner joined Grey in 2005 after spending 6 years in accounts at FCB, where he was hired to run the Nabisco business and eventually worked on Samsung, Kraft, AT&T and Diet Coke.
He was an account director at Grey working with such clients as Kmart and Ethan Allen before pivoting to a B2B specialization and handling HSBC, GE Healthcare and Allergan in addition to GSK.
Just over a year ago, Grey New York split into five “portfolio groups” under new CEO Michael Houston, with Kahner leading the B2B-friendly Portfolio E (AARP, Bausch & Lomb, Boehringer-Ingelheim, GE, GSK, HSBC, National Parks, NFL, and Turner/TNT).
He was simultaneously promoted to partner at that time.