The final seminar we attended at Cannes Lions 2010 also happened to be one of the more interesting. Pitted against WPP chief Sir Martin Sorrell was Keith Weed, Unilever CMO. They discussed a veritable smorgasbord of topics throughout the hour long debate, with some very strong opinions on consumer insights, creativity, social media, global market opportunities and much more.
Reflecting on a “brutal” 2009, Sir Martin wondered if the actual procurement and financing of advertising had diminished the role of marketing. Representing the newly crowned Advertiser of the Year 2010 at Cannes, Keith Weed assured the audience that this was not the case for them as an FMCG company. He stated that the buying process can be streamlined but creativity is still needed to send the right message. He went on to say that creativity was what turned products in superbrands.
Reflecting on the global opportunity for Unilever and other brands, Weed tipped his hat to the notion of leveraging digital to expand reach by saying “The more digital you are, the more global you can become. The more global you are, the more digital you can become.” In tackling new markets, he said that his two priorities are to develop that market and to grow share at the same time. He also disclosed that more than half of Unilever’s sales come from developing markets, especially in former British and Dutch empire countries. A truly remarkable statistic from Weed was that 2bn people use a Unilever product every day.
The subject of digital raised its head once more this week. When asked by Sir Martin how much of its spend went on digital, Weed sidestepped by saying that it varies by market but that Unilever intend to double their spend on digital this year. Crowdsourcing is another brand engagement mechanism being used alongside more traditional forms. The Pepperami brand solely uses crowdsourcing to message to consumers and has worked very well for Unilever, however Weed confirmed that it would not displace the agency, but rather complements all the other advertising that agencies produce.