LONDON: Unilever, the FMCG giant, is launching a major co-creation drive as it seeks to find innovative ways of connecting with its target audience.

The company has recently released details about a global competition, called the Consumer Creative Challenge, which will cover 13 of its brands, including Ben & Jerry's, Dove, Lipton and Vaseline.

As part of this initiative, it has formed a partnership with Mofilm, a specialist co-creation network for film-makers which has previously hosted contests on behalf of firms like Vodafone, AT&T and Pepsi.

Entries to the Challenge, which has a total prize fund of £70,000 ($107k; €81k), will be judged by a panel drawn from Unilever, its advertising agencies and representatives from leading video-sharing websites.

This group will ultimately choose five entries to be considered for each product, with the winning videos then possibly going to feature in TV or online ads.

"We believe that marketing will be much more participatory in the next few years and we want to be at the leading edge of that," said Babs Rangaiah, Unilever's vp of global communications planning.

Unilever has previously run co-creation campaigns for Dove Cream Oil in the US, broadcasting the successful spot during the Academy Awards ceremony that year.

It has employed a similar strategy for Lipton tea in China, and dropped Lowe London, the agency for Peperami in the UK, in favour of using consumer-generated content.

"All of those [campaigns] have had pretty strong results," said Rangaiah. "Recognising the importance of consumers and their interaction with brands, we want to really do this at a much higher level now."

The company has provided a broad outline about the positioning of each of its brands to guide entrants to the Creative Challenge, and will focus on ideas that could have an international appeal.

One of its other primary objectives is to interact with the highly influential youth demographic and generate positive word-of-mouth across several markets.

"The real reason for it is to offer more participation for our consumers, to get closer to consumers and allow them to be more involved with our brands," said Rangaiah.

"It will help them become advocates, help them have more of a connection with the brands if they've been a part of helping to create it."

Rangaiah also stressed that Unilever was not seeking to replace its advertising agencies, but was instead adapting its approach to reflect the changes currently taking place in the digital world.

"We value our relationships with our agencies, whether they're PRs, media or creative ad agencies. They're still our key strategic partners."

"In the same way that agencies are blurring, disciplines in general are blurring. This kind of blurs a combination of digital, PR, advertising and media. It kind of brings it all together."

In order to ascertain the success of the Consumer Creative Challenge, Unilever will track metrics including how many times submitted videos are viewed and how many people spread material virally.

"These are all things we can measure, probably better than we've been able to measure anything," said Rangaiah.

It will also conduct a variety of more traditional forms of research and undertake bespoke studies to establish the ROI of this activity.

Data sourced from Brand Week/Marketing Week; additional content by Warc staff