Unus Media, Unilever's in-house media unit, has sent letters to five of its agencies asking for the pros and cons of naming an agency of record for spot. Currently the five shops-J. Walter Thompson USA, McCann-Erickson Worldwide, Ammirati Puris Lintas, Ogilvy & Mather Worldwide and BBDO Worldwide, all New York-buy spot TV for their respective Unilever brands.
Joe Campion, president of Unus Media, confirmed the letters went out but downplayed their significance.
"As part of our system of continually making sure we have the best system going, we explore various alternatives," he said. "That's all it is."
Unilever ranked No. 18 in U.S. ad spending last year with $445 million, according to Competitive Media Reporting. But its '95 measured network TV spending of about $200 million has dwarfed its spot purchases.
On the network side, Unus splits its buys between JWT and the Botway Group, a New York-based media buying service.
LACK OF DATA
Part of the problem, according to an executive familiar with Unilever, is that it's difficult to get good local and regional consumer spending data in the health & beauty aids category.
"I think Unilever would actually like us to spend more in spot," said one Unilever agency media executive, "but without the information, it's hard to justify the money."
Another factor that may come into play is the corporate reorganization under way at Unilever. Media executives suspect the AOR query is related to the shuffling, which so far hasn't affected the company's in-house media unit.
Said another executive at a Unilever shop. "My guess is eventually they're going to do a careful evaluation [at Unus] as well."