Unilever to Review Massive Media Buying and Planning Account

Unilever Reported $8.3 Billion Last Year in Global Advertising Spending at Current Exchange Rates

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Luis Di Como
Luis Di Como

Unilever is set to review its multi-billion dollar, global media buying and planning business, according to people close to the review.

The London-based packaged goods giant held its last review in early 2012, and tends to review every three years. As it did last time, the company has invited the incumbents to participate, according to people familiar with the matter.

Unilever declined to comment.

In early 2012, Unilever invited its worldwide incumbents to pitch for local buying and planning and ultimately retained the shops with the bulk of the business. Those incumbents included: Mindshare for North America, parts of Africa and Europe, Interpublic Group of Cos.' Initiative in Latin America, Europe and Russia; and Omnicom's PHD in various parts of Asia and Europe. Mindshare has worked on Unilever communications planning in North America, Western Europe and elsewhere since the late 1990s.

There was one surprise after the last pitch. Unilever, which had promoted Luis Di Como to senior-VP global media prior to kicking off the review, added its first global planning assignment for all personal care, refreshment, foods and homecare brands. PHD won that assignment.

Unilever reported $8.3 billion last year in global advertising spending at current exchange rates, which would include around $1.4 billion in agency and production fees. In an investor presentation Jan. 20, Chief Financial Officer Jean-Marc Huet said the company had increased global media spending by "mid single digits" despite keeping overall ad spending constant as a percent of sales at 14.8%. The company did this by continuing to cut agency and production costs, which have declined from 24% of its overall spending in 2012 to 20% this year.

Unilever's digital spending increased 20% last year, Mr. Huet said during the presentation, and now accounts for around 20% of the company's global media spending.

The marketer ranked 28 on The Ad Age DataCenter's list of top U.S. advertisers, having spent $815.67 million on measured media in 2013, according to the last full year of available spending data. By brand, Dove led as the top Unilever spender at $195 million, followed by Degree and Axe, both of which spent about $67 million on domestic measured media.

Contributing: Jack Neff

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