Unilever embraces digital

23 September 2009

NEW YORK: Digital media offers a unique way of connecting with consumers, and is now "woven" into all aspects of the marketing strategy employed by Unilever, the FMCG giant, according to Rob Master, its North American media director.

Speaking at the recent OMMA Global conference, Master said that just two years ago it was difficult to see how brands like Hellmann's Mayonnaise and Lipton Tea could successfully embrace the growing range of digital tools available.

"Could I have been that unimaginative? The answer is 'Yes, I was.' At Unilever, we've gotten a lot more focused and a better understanding of where the consumer is going," he argued.

As part of this process, social media is "woven" into the Anglo-Dutch's company's commercial communications, and has a "role underneath everything we're doing."

Indeed, Master suggested that the "scale we got with the 30-second spot no longer exists. Social media is less about a channel and more about the fabric of our campaigns."

The owner of Knorr and Bertolli has thus placed an increased emphasis on educating its own staff about using platforms such as Twitter, the microblogging service.

One of the key shifts brought about by this trend has been that "young people in your organisation are more important than ever," Master suggested.

However, a major problem to which there is no "simple answer" at present is that of how to avoid disrupting web users when advertising via this medium.

This demonstrates that social media is "not an easy channel", even if "everyone realises the importance of it. We're working cross-functionally internally and with our agency as well," said Master. 

Magid Abraham, ceo of comScore, reported at the same event that social networks currently deliver over 20% of ad impressions in the US, yet only receive around 3% of adspend.

He also stated that Unilever is the consumer packaged goods company with the strongest advertising presence on such websites, although it is only ranked at number 42 in terms of the marketers which are making the most use of the medium.

Data sourced from MediaPost; additional content by WARC staff