Unilever takes integrated approach

09 March 2012

LONDON: Unilever, the FMCG giant, is adopting an increasingly integrated approach to marketing, in recognition of the shrinking division between online and offline media.

"Things really are getting joined up," Keith Weed, the company's chief marketing officer, told the Financial Times. "The same creative is going to flow across multiple screens.

"Ultimately, this concept of digital will disappear. My 20-year-old son laughs at me when I talk about online and offline," he added. "I want to get to the future first. I don't want to be following my competitors."

Many of the key players in this evolving landscape have a previously unimaginable reach, offering opportunities for brands to take a highly international outlook.

"A few years ago I would be engaging much more of a national base on campaigns," Weed said. "But Google and Facebook are truly global media companies in a way the world has never seen."

Currently, Unilever allocates approximately 35% of its US budget to digital, measured against 25% in Europe and 4% in India, where new media is at a more nascent stage.

However, the rising uptake of mobile phones among consumers in India and other fast-growing economies will demand a response from marketers, Weed suggested.

"If the first 1bn users connected to the internet through PCs, the next 1bn will be through mobile," he said.

To enhance the coordination of its digital activities, Unilever has cut the number of agencies its uses from 400 to 100, with 12 lead global shops, like AKQA Razorfish, and R/GA.

"We're already fragmenting our spend across different media," Weed said. "If you fragment the message you're making it less cohesive and joined up."

One key area that still needs to be addressed is proving the payback of new media marketing spend, as the current metrics do not match the potential seemingly on offer, in theory at least.

"Digital is in theory more measurable than anything else, in theory and in practice, but it's not broad enough yet. What we'll see is a significant maturation of ROI in digital," Weed said.

Data sourced from Financial Times; additional content by Warc staff