Unilever CMO tells digital industry to simplify its structure to help brands scale campaigns

Keith Weed in Cannes today. Pic: Twitter

Keith Weed in Cannes today. Pic: Twitter

The top marker at Unilever has made a rallying cry to the social and mobile industry to simplify their structures, and to agencies to become leaders in orchestration, as he seeks to lead a transformation to marketing for people.

Speaking at a session called #brightfuture Keith Weed, the chief marketing and communications officer at one of the world’s biggest advertisers, set out a list of goals for the industry and challenged them to transform their thinking, and look at how they attract the top creative talent.

Pointing at a complex chart showing the structure of the mobile and social media industries Weed said the sheer complexity was stopping big brands using the channels at real scale.

“Einstein said it needs to be simple, and we need to be simple,” he said. “There’s an awful lot we need to do to simplify this business, and I ask you all to step back and simplify what we’re doing.

“I could produce TV commercial this week and have it shown in 100 countries next week, I certainly couldn’t do that with a mobile ad at any scale.”

On talent Weed said “there has never been such a premium on creativity” for businesses t achieve cut through in a congested marketing landscape.

He added: “Its not clear for a young creative how it will go. In the old days they would go to a big agency or a boutique and learn their trade then decide. But now it’s diluted across many different fronts, with the likes of Facebook and Twitter and Pinterest startups.

“It’s a real challenge. We want to employ great people and find ways of how we work with the best. We’ve got to find ways to make this a really exciting industry and attract ideas.”

His third challenge to the industry was around collaboration, and in particular how marketers orchestrate an increasingly large and diverse range of agencies and specialists in different disciplines to co-ordinate large campaigns.

Pointing to the example of the  company’s Project Sunlight push, aiming to inspire hope in expectant parents, he said it took 12 agencies to co-ordinate the campaign which go 100m connections.

Weed said: “It took 12 companies having to work together in the to make this happen. In the olden days I went to one agency for all my needs, including media strategy.

“There’s a real need in the advertising industry to orchestrate.  Those 12 companies were orchestrated by a marketing guy in Unilever and that’s not his day job. We need orchestration professionals with how we’re going to use all the specialsts. Its a specalists’ world.

“Too much now channels are driving what we’re doing and its fragmenting brands. Its a real threat to our industry and what we need from our agencies is more help in how to orchestrate those specialists together. We need to lead to brands, not channels.”

He said there is also a need for brands to develop a brand purpose, in a bid to move the marketing needle from “marketing to people, to marketing with people, to marketing for people”.

Alex Hayes in Cannes


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