ENGLEWOOD CLIFFS: Unilever, the consumer goods giant, is increasingly challenging broadcast networks in the US to develop unique partnerships that will benefit its brands, resulting in an approach that takes the form of a "reverse upfront."

The Anglo-Dutch company spends some $500 million (€368m; £330m) annually on TV in the US, and first took the step of delivering brand plans to broadcasters in an effort to solicit ideas for bespoke content and advertising deals last year.

Among the results were a tie-up between Hellmann's mayonnaise and the CBS show The New Adventures of Old Christine, and the promotion of Vaseline both on Maneater – shown on Lifetime – and via ESPN's TV, radio and online operations.

CBS also developed a set of unique spots for Unilever products, including using one of the presenters of The Insider to promote Bertolli, and linking ads for Go Fresh Burst Body Wash to Gossip Girl.

Rob Master, Unilever's director of North American media, says the company has seen "clear, measurable business success from pretty much every big program we've done."

However, while the FMCG firm plans to "be aggressive with our investment," he also warned that "price does matter, and we're looking to leverage every dollar we spend."

As such, he emphasised "the importance of media companies delivering big ideas that our brands want to engage in" as a prime driver of spending this year.

While TV will feature, the company is also looking for solutions across mobile and digital platforms, as well as interactive TV and content deals, as part of what Master says is becoming a "media upfront."

Data sourced from AdAge; additional content by WARC staff