Creativebrief: What work have you done recently that makes you the most proud?
Keith Weed: There is a lot of great work going on in Unilever, but I would say the building of the Pureit water purifier business is worth highlighting. Currently, one of the biggest issues in the world is water borne disease. The vast majority of people do not have access to safe drinking water. We have developed and launched a purifier, which retails as low as €15 in India, which gives consumers pure, safe drinking water – removing bacteria, virus and parasites. It is much cheaper and convenient than boiling water and better for the environment, a real win-win solution. Since establishing the business in India, we are now launching in Mexico, Brazil, Indonesia and Bangladesh.
Another great project I’m proud of is our Sustainable Living Plan. This has 50 time-based commitments across the following three pillars: reducing the environmental impact, improving health and well-being, and enhancing livelihoods. This is an industry-leading initiative to step up delivery of the sustainability agenda. It’s highly measurable and we’ll be reporting on our progress on a regular basis. It’s changing the way we think and act and, over time, we believe it will enable consumers to feel that they too can do a number of small everyday things that cumulatively can make a big difference to the world given our scale and reach.
Creativebrief: How do you see the media landscape unfolding in the next 5 years?
Keith Weed: In a word, content. The cloud will ultimately enable consumers to have unlimited access to all content. Web-based offerings (the cloud) will offer increased and almost unlimited central storage space. That, along with broadband penetration increases, will allow consumers to hold vast libraries of content on any device. TV shows will be available whenever and wherever people want to view them. All music will be digital. All books will have been scanned and will be widely available digitally.
This content will be highly customized. The news, information and entertainment people see will all be tailored to their interests and will be just as much about their personal connections as public information (news about their friends, content created by friends, etc.), and advertising will emerge as the primary revenue source for most forms of content.
In addition, most devices will be web connected (‘the internet of things’) and screens will converge. Web access will hit critical mass globally, and content will be played interchangeably on TV, Mobile and the PC. People will regularly transfer media from one device to another. And most devices will be able to “talk to the internet”. As a result, D&E markets will reach critical mass of mobile phones (China & India will have 75% penetration and Africa will reach 30%).
We will also see an explosion of consumer-generated content on social media. Human beings have a need to express themselves creatively and be famous. Historically this has been controlled by Hollywood but no longer. This is not a phase. It will transform both the creation and distribution of content. The fastest growing media will be that which consumers create, shape and share themselves. It will be created by all but pace-set by highly participatory segments. Consumer-generated content in the form of blogs, amateur content (music, movies, shows, etc…) social networking utilities, games and digital mash-ups will rival professionally-produced content as it relates to time spent, viewership and cultural influence.
Finally, the social graph will gain traction. Laser targeting will be much more feasible as marketers will have more and deeper data, and access to media habits paired with location, behavioural and demographic information. ‘Creative’ will be much more customized and tailored to the consumer’s behaviour/interests/content, tailored to time of day, life stage (getting married, new baby), etc… As all hardware/devices will be addressable and all media searchable, laser targeting will be possible in all media, across all screens – including TV. Reaching mass audiences will no longer be the primary metric. They will only be available in rare instances such as live sports, award shows, reality shows and the like. Prices for things like the Olympics, super bowl, etc., will go through the roof.
Creativebrief: Do you prefer to use an ‘integrated’ agency approach or specialist agencies by individual discipline?
Keith Weed: Ideally, I would prefer to have one interface that can integrate all disciplines, but I will not sacrifice quality to achieve this, so currently I am very pragmatic and will work with either an integrated agency, an integrated holding company or individual agencies dependent on the situation. Unilever’s drive for great work and excellence will always be prioritised over neat models.
As the industry matures through the digital revolution, I am sure new scalable models that provide excellence and integration will emerge.
Creativebrief: Do you prefer to use local agencies by market or international/global agencies?
Keith Weed: Unilever operates in over 170 countries globally and we’ve been present in many of these markets for 100 years – we arrived in India for example in the late 1880’s. So we have been local and global for a long time. In fact, Unilever previously owned the Advertising agency, Lintas, which is now Lowe, to help develop advertising in a joined up way in a complex fragmented world (Lintas stood for Lever International Advertising Services).
As I’ve explained, we are at our most successful when we combine our localness and global scale. International agencies need to do the same.
Our business is built by serving the needs of an individual. If you do that well, more and more people will use your brands. Although, everyday, over 2 billion people use our products, you need to think of it as 2 billion single decisions. This requires great advertising with insights and ideas shared across multiple markets. On balance this means we use more international than local agencies, but not exclusively.
Creativebrief: When choosing agencies in the past were you ever influenced by awards?
Keith Weed: I would not say that I have chosen an agency based on awards but I have certainly noticed an agency through its awards, which, in turn, gets them on to a consideration list.
Creativebrief: What challenges do you face, managing day-to-day agency relationships?
Keith Weed: Unilever develops a lot of advertising across a broad portfolio of brands in Personal and Beauty Care, Home Care and Foods. We are the second largest advertiser in the world operating in over 170 countries. The sheer complexity and the breadth of work is an on-going challenge. But it is not the volume that concerns me but the quality and consistency, especially with digital, which can result in fragmentation rather than integration. However, the beauty of advertising is that great ideas cut through all this clutter and shape brands. Also many great ideas can cross country boundaries. So, the only challenge is how to get the best people in the agency to work on your business with passion and energy.
Creativebrief: How often do you look at new agencies or review your roster?
Keith Weed: Not frequently. Having said that, I just reviewed our Digital rosters globally and regionally, so as infrequent as possible, but as frequent as necessary!
Creativebrief: How do you monitor and stay-in-touch with the agency market to ensure you work with the best?
Keith Weed: One of my structured windows on agencies is through awards likes Cannes, where you see a breadth of work from a huge range of agencies; however, the unstructured ‘word of mouth’ recommendation through people you know is equally powerful.
Creativebrief: What are your top tips to agencies when presenting credentials to you?
Keith Weed: Show lots of your work as it’s ultimately all about that. However, also show how it can be delivered consistently and explain how your agency is different from others (e.g., capabilities, philosophies, culture, points of view on the world and consumers).
Every good agency can produce great advertising every so often, but delivering great advertising consistently requires more. I am always looking for the magic in the sauce that will bring magic to our brands.
Creativebrief: What’s your final word?
Keith Weed: Brands are our business. They are our past, present and our future.
The one area that I see as having enormous potential in the new age of transparency is the Unilever brand itself. We know from experience from all around the world that consumers are increasingly interested in the ‘brand behind the brands’ if you will. They like to know the provenance of the products they buy, where they came from, how the ingredients were sourced, what standards were maintained along the way and so on
Once again, we come back to the Sustainable Living Plan, which goes a long way to answering those questions. As one of the world’s largest companies with some of the world’s best-loved consumer brands, Unilever can remain true to its values and promote the Sustainable Living debate, safe in the knowledge that, like Sunlight soap, it’s something that Lord Leverhulme himself would have pioneered if he’d been here today.