Unilever’s CMO Says Viewability Is Improving, but Cross-Platform Measurement Problems Loom

Keith Weed breaks down the digital media-supply chain

Unilever's Keith Weed talks about challenges in digital advertising.
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Two weeks after Procter & Gamble’s chief brand officer Marc Pritchard gave an update about the state of what’s increasingly become a messy digital media-supply chain at Dmexco, Unilever’s CMO Keith Weed gave his own report card for partners during an Advertising Week keynote today.

For one, agencies need to move beyond creating specialized, niche services, Weed said. In April, Unilever announced that it was cutting its global roster of agencies from 3,000 to 1,500 and during the first half of this year, the consumer-packaged-goods giant has dropped agency spend by 17 percent.

“Stop talking about digital marketing—it’s about marketing in a connected world, in the digital world and we need to do much more integration,” Weed said. “I include that with the agencies that are still offering different agencies for different parts of marketing. We’ve got one consumer at the end of the day, we need to have one budget, one strategy and one execution.”

Weed then broke down four areas of digital advertising and gave each one a grade: Viewability and verification, ad fraud, brand safety and cross-platform measurement.

For viewability and verification—an area that Unilever has been particularly proactive in with agency GroupM—Weed gave the industry a ‘B+’ because “we are making some good progress in this area but we’re not quite there.” As advertisers have demanded more transparency into how big social platforms calculate viewability, Facebook and YouTube have agreed to become accredited by the Media Rating Council but those efforts are still ongoing.

With ad fraud, Weed gave the industry a ‘C’ and brand safety receives a ‘B-‘ for similar reasons, saying that there is still work to do in those areas.

Cross-platform measurement is the fourth area but Weed chose to not give it a grade and instead gave it a question mark, explaining that platforms continue to offer limited visibility into marketers’ ads compare to other types of media.

“This is critical because at the end of the day, we’ve got to be able to see over the walled gardens of the Googles, Facebooks, Twitters and Snapchats and be able to measure across the whole market and be able to really understand the dynamics between TV and digital,” Weed said. “Whenever there is a question mark in any market that isn’t good for market growth—we really need to focus on making sure that we’re not having people mark their own homework and we find ways of engaging the overall digital media platform.”

Weed also talked about moving Unilever’s marketing away from targeting big groups of consumers—like American moms or Hispanic millennials—to doing what Weed called “mass customization.”

In one example, Unilever is experimenting with new types of search ads that zero in on information that people are looking for. For instance, instead of focusing on a query about types of detergent, Unilever may target folks who are looking to get a red wine stain out of a shirt. After investing 11 percent more in search, the shift has increased Unilever’s search traffic by 30 percent, Weed said.

“[It’s] really getting down to, ‘How do we understand individuals?’ It’s that move from mass marketing to massive customization,” Weed said. “That customization comes with tremendous challenges but of course [are] completely feasible in this new world of marketing. It’s thinking about individuals rather than averages.”