We Hear: Unilever Planning Multiple Agency Reviews

By Patrick Coffee 

Today AdAge reported that Unilever is poised to review its “massive” global media buying and planning account in what has become something of a three-year ritual. But we hear that the company is planning more changes.

For context, here’s what CMO Keith Weed told The Wall Street Journal back in June:

“In the old days I could go to one agency that would meet all my advertising needs. Not today. It’s a specialist world now…”

His words were prophetic. Just over a week later, the company launched a multi-faceted agency review: details were scant and unconfirmed, but creative, PR, digital, media, and more would allegedly be up for grabs.

A source close to the company now tells us that, in addition to the global media business, London-based Unilever will also be putting some of the consumer goods under its mantle up for creative review.

Hairdressing company Toni & Guy is rumored to be first in line. In keeping with Weed’s comments about “the threat of fragmentation” and the need to “find ways to lead with brands and not channels,” Unilever plans to produce much of the brand’s future above the line work in-house. (For more on this subject, an earlier Wall Street Journal report also held that the company is “looking to reduce the fees” it pays to its various digital agencies.)

Because of this shift, the review (allegedly) includes not just traditional agencies but digital shops and even content-ready PR firms. According to the source, competitors for the Toni & Guy account (currently with JWT) include R/GA, London’s Karmarama, and communications giant Edelman.

Toni & Guy may not be the last Unilever property up for creative review, either. Here is a helpful list of some of the many brands that “two billion people use…on any given day.”

Unilever’s press contacts declined the opportunity to comment; updates when we receive them.