VIDEO: Unilever Marketing Exec: 'Tear Down Silos'

Planners Need Better Sense of Digital Landscape

By Published on .

NEW YORK ( -- Tear down the silos if you want to create truly meaningful work in the digital space. That was the charge from a Unilever marketing executive who worked on the much-admired Dove brand.

"Planners have got to have a better sense of the entire media landscape," said Babs Rangaiah, director of media and entertainment at Unilever USA, who delivered the morning keynote address yesterday at Ad Age's first Digital Marketing Conference. He was speaking to 400 marketing executives at the Roosevelt Hotel in Midtown Manhattan on one of the coldest days of the year.

Digital, Mr. Rangaiah said, should happen at the front end in some cases.

Campaigns like one for Dove Cream Oil, which asked users to create an ad that would air during the Academy Awards, require teamwork and a "single-minded focus," he said. "There is electricity I haven't ever seen before at the company."

Live digitally
Mr. Rangaiah also argued that marketers have to live digitally: If you've never sold something on eBay, don't subscribe to RSS or write a blog, how are you to know how to market in these vehicles? Unilever is loaded with MBAs from top schools, yet it still administers digital IQ tests "to make sure people understand the space," he said.

Marketers need to remind consumers that advertising underwrites much of their most prized content, he said. "We've got to do a better job of letting people know that. Kids don't understand the business model."

Mr. Rangaiah also described a shift within Unilever. He said the company started to think about things differently when it launched Dove Cool Moisture in early 2005 through a promotion on NBC's "The Apprentice." But the use of online reached a tipping point in October 2005, when ABC put its shows on iTunes and broadband penetration reached 55%. "We're still a company built around sight, sound and motion," and never thought banner ads were as effective as TV, he said.

Dove webisodes
The team behind Dove felt the brand's female target demographic spent a lot of time online but weren't watching video because none of it appealed to them. So the brand called on filmmaker Penny Marshall to direct a series of webisodes starring Felicity Huffman of "Desperate Housewives." "We are going to treat this like we'd treat a huge TV campaign," Mr. Rangaish said.

He also encouraged marketers to be more imaginative. Dove, for example, never thought ABC would let the brand air a user-generated ad during the Oscars, which celebrates the best professionally created content. In the end, the ad and the PR around it generated 155 million impressions. "Don't be stifled by ideas just because they couldn't be done in the past," he said.

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