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Unilever Nears End of Effort to Update Digital Agency Roster

Company Has Worked with a Number of Shops on Digital, Including Edelman, Profero, Noise and 360i

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Unilever is wrapping up a procurement-driven exercise that will likely result in an updated digital agency roster and a new way of evaluating its digital agency selection process, according to people familiar with the matter.

The end goal is to create cost efficiencies by streamlining and centralizing the agency vetting process, previously spearheaded by brands.

The idea is for brands to turn to the list, controlled by Unilever, every time they want to invite agencies to pitch for a project. Agencies on the list might not be working on retainer, but they will have already been given an estimated base-level annual revenue mark, according to executives. Agency payment would ultimately come from a larger pot as opposed to an individual brand pot, with rates pre-negotiated by procurement.

Unilever declined comment for this story.

Unilever has typically tapped social and specialist agencies at the brand level. So this latest agency move is part of a larger effort to make horizontal decisions for more cost efficiency and consistency, according to people familiar with the matter.

During the process, the company, which owns brands like Dove, Ben & Jerry's and Lipton's, has been open to adding agencies to its roster that it hasn't typically worked with.

A number of agencies, including PR shops Edelman, GolinHarris and Weber Shandwick, as well as digital players like Profero, Noise and 360i have supported social media and digital marketing for various Unilever brands.

This latest agency evaluation follows the departure of communications and social lead Christine Cea. Last December, Unilever announced that it would slash more than 800 marketing positions as an acceleration of a widespread downsizing of marketing departments.

It also comes as more marketers streamline and consolidate their rosters, as well as combine on- and off-line marketing and media planning resources through dedicated team models. Nestle is in the process of shortening its digital roster from 20 to less than ten. And marketers like Delta and Chanel have consolidated various marketing functions through dedicated WPP agency teams.

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