Rob Master

Director of North American Media, Uniliever

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Unilever has gotten plenty of honors for creativity and marketing innovation, which could leave the impression it's lost touch with good old package-goods number crunching.

Rob Master, who became director of North American media last winter, is quick to dispel that notion. One of his focuses is continuing to strengthen company media analytics.
Rob Master, director of North American media, Uniliever
Rob Master, director of North American media, Uniliever Credit: Darryl Estrine

"We're not going to be fooled by the coolness factor," he says. "We're ... digging much more aggressively into how consumers are leveraging media, how we evaluate the media and how that ultimately links back to selling more products."

That doesn't mean Unilever will start pulling back from digital or other new media. Digital makes up a double-digit percentage of Unilever's 2008 outlay, Mr. Master says. (TNS Media Intelligence put it at 5% through the first quarter based only on display, without search or other digital spending.) "Our spend is working in the digital space," he says.

But Unilever is also a long way from forgetting about TV.

"What's old is new again to a large degree," Mr. Master says. In talking with Unilever's brand marketers, he says, "what I stress is that traditional television as we know it still plays such an important role, but how we adapt it to the consumer and media landscape today is very different from how we used it two or three years ago."

He cites Suave's "In the Motherhood" partnership with Sprint to create web videos, which in turn are being developed into an upcoming ABC series, or the growing use of interactive TV, a medium he says is finally delivering the numbers needed.

"He's a very big thinker, always challenging us in a very positive way," says Shari Cohen, co-executive director for national broadcast at MindShare.

Mr. Master is also a team player who's given MindShare executives baseball nicknames. Ms. Cohen, since she closes deals, is called "Goose," for former Yankees closer Goose Gossage.

Mr. Master still plays his other favorite sport, hockey, as an amateur, though at 37, he admits he's prone to take himself off the ice more often.

But in media, he says, Unilever will stay on its game and will not be tempted by any industry back-to-basics retrenchment of the sort he knows well. In the Web 1.0 days, Mr. Master was employee number 40 for eHobbies, which peaked at 200 and had 15 by the time he joined Unilever.

"What's basics anymore?" he asks. "There just aren't shows day in and day out that deliver 30 million or 25 million people ... so I think as an organization we've gotten past that return to the basics."
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