Unilever In-House Teams Track Media Proliferation

15 March 2006

Unilever, the planet's second largest advertiser, revealed Monday it has created a number of in-house teams to keep abreast of the rapid changes in media.

But - far from establishing internal agencies - says global media director Alan Rutherford, Unilever is trying to spur change in its external agencies - with whose input on new media he is currently unimpressed.

"The ad industry is struggling at the moment in pulling all the components of brand communication together," he says. There is a struggle to have traditional media and digital and content and public relations all brought under one roof on the agency side."

Rutherford cites the decline in TV adspend as a consequence of media proliferation. At the start of the decade TV advertising represented some 85% of Unilever's global ad budget; today it accounts for just 65%.

Rutherford puts a premium on "holistic" campaigns that utilize a wider range of marketing tools. Accordingly he has assigned six people to work on devising integrated campaigns for leading brands. Five are charged with finding new digital advertising ideas.

"I think there is a disconnect between creative thinking and communications channel management at the moment," he avers. "I think this will help redress that disconnect on the agency side."

Among the more grizzled observers of the advertising scene, there is a sense of ironic amusement that the advent of new media has set the wheel turning full circle.

Back in the 50s and 60 virtually every agency, irrespective of size, offered its clients just such a holistic approach. Although in those distant days such marketing terminology would have met with glazed looks.

Rutherford, however, doubts that the global agency holding companies can "rebundle" their media, creative and digital planning operations because the separation process has travelled "so far down the line".

Data sourced from Financial Times Online; additional content by WARC staff