"We decided it was better to let the brand groups develop programs as opposed to the kinds of [multi-category deals] we had been doing with AOL [and Microsoft]," said Unilever spokesman Stephen Milton.
Tony Romeo, 55, chairman of the North American Interactive Brand Center and a driving force behind Unilever's interactive marketing push, retired effective Sept. 1, Mr. Milton said. His duties in developing interactive marketing strategies have been dispersed to the brand teams, and his additional responsibilities in developing food and beverage strategy were shifted to Unilever's European operations. Duties for interactive brand centers in Europe and Asia also have been moved to brand groups there.
The move follows Unilever's decision to scale back its stake in its Substance.com joint venture with iVillage earlier this year. But while Unilever is redistributing and refocusing its interactive efforts, it hasn't given up on the area or on some of the programs spawned by the Interactive Brand Center.
As with other package-goods marketers, Unilever's interactive marketing increasingly has become integrated with other direct-to-consumer and media advertising efforts, and the reorganization is meant to help reflect that, Mr. Milton said.
For instance, last summer, Unilever's Salon Selectives brand ran radio ads directing young women to the brand's Web site to enter a sweepstakes for a Volkswagen Cabriolet giveaway. Unilever also continues its quarterly Home Basics direct-to-consumer custom magazine, which promotes several Unilever home, personal-care, food and beverage brands based on a database of 700,000 consumers who opted in to marketing programs through multiple Unilever sites.