LONDON: Against the baroque background of London's Royal Covent Garden Opera House, venue for this year's Marketing Society annual conference, attendees heard recently appointed Unilever cmo Simon Clift (pictured) avow that despite the onset of recession, the foods and consumer products titan is "currently not planning" to downsize its European marketing spend.

Addressing the Winning in the Downturn event, Clift claimed that Unilever is not vulnerable during a downturn as it makes and supplies products people needed and used whatever the economic climate.

Nor was the company "planning any deceleration in our innovation programme … in a recession we just have to look much harder at where we might be wasting money."

He also stressed that three-quarters of Unilever's growth is within developing markets, despite which "it would be naïve to think we won't be affected, but the market will continue to grow."

Unilever, he said, had experienced recessions in developing markets every three years and had accumulated experience in in meeting such challenges.

"My feeling is that people still want good products but they will just buy less of them. It would be a tragic thing to strip out quality."

As to marketing budgets, Clift predicted there will be some "fantastic bargains" for advertisers in the space-time marketplaces, although he noted that the market is not yet at the point where the downturn is reflected in media pricing.

Manufacturers much keep their nerve in tense economic conditions, he urged. "All consumer behaviour regarding the environment is about delegating to manufacturers. It puts a lot of responsibility onto us. In the end it is an important challenge to us.

"Consumers' relationship to capitalism is going to go through a fundamental change through this financial crisis. People will realise unleashed capitalism does not have all the answers."

Data sourced from; additional content by WARC staff