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Is Unilever’s Rahul Welde to blame for cost blitz on media agencies?

Welde is VP of media for Unilever in Asia and Africa and he recently spoke at an industry confab, saying in essence that marketing was all about clever ideas, he didn’t care where they came from (he was quite keen about them coming from members of the public, like crowd sourcing) and the next good one was likely to be completely different to the last.

And probably produced by somebody else.

All of which seems to imply that Rahul has no faith whatsoever in long-term relationships with any kind of agency and is perfectly happy to cherry pick whatever he wants from whomever.

As my chum Stuart Smith points out this may well illuminate recent events in the sub-continent, where Reckitt-Benckiser, Unilever’s big rival there, has invited media agencies pitching for its account to cough up $10,000 for the privilege.

And Thomas Cook’s decision in the UK to demand a payment of £1m from the agency that wins its media account, plus lots of other reductions as well.

So it’s clearly not all Welde’s fault but his example is instructive. But it’s instructive in another way too.

The Indians, like the Chinese, are natural traders. They’re always looking for a deal and the notion that you would stay with a supplier who doesn’t offer the best deal (which also means the cheapest) every time is completely alien to even sophisticated business executives.

Something for WPP’s Sir Martin Sorrell and Publicis Groupe’s Maurice Levy to worry about over their (separate) bedtime cocoa.

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If the fearsome Rahul Welde ever finds his way to Europe or North America the two veterans will probably find the notion of well-deserved retirement surprisingly attractive.

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About Stephen Foster

Stephen is a former editor of Marketing Week and London Evening Standard advertising columnist. He wrote City Republic for Brand Republic and is a partner in communications consultancy The Editorial Partnership.
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