Unilever is launching a media review in North America and most of the world, with a mix of incumbents and unnamed newcomers to the roster competing in the briefing stage, according to Unilever Chief Marketing and Digital Officer Conny Braams.
Unilever reported $8.1 billion in brand and marketing investment globally last year, flat vs. 2019, and was ranked as the fifth-largest global ad spender in 2019 by the Ad Age Datacenter. Its U.S. measured media spending was $529 million last year, according to Kantar. Campaign previously reported Unilever is preparing a global review.
Unilever brands include Dove, Axe, Knorr, Degree, Ben & Jerry's and Seventh Generation.
Unilever hasn’t done a review of this scope since 2015, though it did conduct one in China last year won by WPP, whose Mindshare currently handles Unilever media in North America. Omnicom’s PHD and Interpublic-owned media agencies handle Unilever business in other parts of the world. Publicis Groupe and Dentsu shops don’t currently have Unilever business and would appear likely contenders, though Braams declined to comment on specifically who might be involved beyond incumbents.
Unilever had once been on a cycle for reviewing its biggest media accounts globally every three years, but didn’t conduct a major review in 2018 when that schedule normally would have kicked in. That was a year that saw a lot of change for WPP, with the departure of former CEO Martin Sorrell, and Unilever, with the announced retirements of CEO Paul Polman and Chief Marketing and Communications Officer Keith Weed.
Braams, who began her current global marketing and digital role last year, says Unilever no longer regularly does one global review and has reviewed media shops in some geographies over the past two years. But the current review is bigger than recent ones. “I would say it’s more than half the markets,” Braams says. “We have invited a couple of current agency group partners, but also a couple of [other] selected agency groups in selected markets, not all of them global.”
The North American and broader Unilever media review comes after the company awarded its U.S. retail, e-commerce and shopper marketing account to Publicis Groupe, led by Arc Worldwide, from WPP’s Geometry, first reported by Insider.
“We felt Arc, the Publicis company, was best positioned at this time to deliver the shopper-centric, data-driven insights that are needed to reach the next level of performance marketing, which is becoming more and more important,” Braams says. “Now, what implication does that have for our incumbent? We will continue to work in a strong relationship with WPP, and Mindshare remains our media partner. Arc will help us drive the lower-funnel performance marketing.”
Representatives of WPP and Omnicom declined to comment, and a representative for Interpublic couldn’t immediately be reached.