Unilever CMO To Ad Agencies: "Consumers Are In Charge, Do Great Work"

The American Association of Advertising Agencies is in Austin, TX this week presenting “4A’s Transformation 2011,” an annual gathering that brings together advertising and media leaders.

Executives from networks, agencies and ad tech providers have exchanged ideas and attended thought-provoking presentations by speakers such as CNN’s Fareed Zakaria. One-on-one interviews have also been a highlight, and of particular interest was the chat by Michael Kassan, CEO of MediaLink with Keith Weed, Unilever’s CMO, about the digital future.

Thanks goes out to Chris Yeh (@chrisyeh) and the Agency Collaboration Blog for the detailed notes he posted online from what was clearly an important and agenda-setting conversation. It’s almost like being there:

The world changes quickly–just a year ago, people at the conference were surprised to see an iPad

Consumers are in charge.  You can’t do OK work.  Do great work.

As information becomes overwhelming, brands will become more important.  Brands are the shortcut that consumers use to filter information

You have to engage with new technology.  You can’t just rely on a “bluffer’s guide” based on AdAge and the New York Times.  Unilever sent their top marketers to Silicon Valley to immerse themselves.

There’s a lost generation of people in their 40s.  People in their 20s grew up digital.  People in their 50s are forced into digital by their kids.  If you’re in the lost generation, you need to deliberately engage with technology to overcome this handicap.

Changing agencies is a last resort–if you have to change agencies, everyone has failed.

My agencies need to love my brands as much as our people love my brands.

Unilever plans to build long-term relationships with digital agencies, similar to on the creative side.

Don’t blame procurement.  The marketers are hiding behind procurement. Procurement is there to execute the decision, not make the decision.

There are over 500 million mobile phones in India–more than there are toilets. That shows you the pace of technology.

We launched Dove for Men during the Superbowl. We filmed both QBs, since we didn’t know who would win. The next day, we ran the Drew Brees version as a takeover on our home pages, singing the ad’s theme song, and got him on Oprah. That’s an example of using technology to leverage a traditional investment.

We all want always-on, cost-effective, quality content. You get to pick two of three.

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