Unilever global CMO Keith Weed said recently that he wanted partnerships of traditional and digital agencies to handle the company’s worldwide business (preferably under the same ownership) and Interpublic’s Lowe and Partners and its fast-growing US-based digital agency Huge have duly partnered to handle cleaning products Cif and Sunlight around the world.
At the same time Unilever has moved the digital business for its Flora/Becel brand to Tribal DDB from Ogilvy & Mather as DDB handles the brand’s worldwide advertising.
On the face of it this is rather bad news for independent digital agencies, at least as far as Unilever business is concerned. But the pragmatic Weed clearly sees synergies in traditional and digital being handled by, at management level anyway, the same team. It also means fewer points of contact, tedious meetings and potential disagreements for Unilever to cope with.
As for Lowe, Unilever has been an incredibly loyal client despite the agency’s recent travails (it recently merged with DLKW to revive the London office following the departure of Tesco to The Red Brick Road).
Last year it brokered a deal to create Alfred@Lowe in the Netherlands to bring former Lowe execs Aad Kujper and Marcel van Wing and their new (and still independent) agency Alfred back into the Lowe fold for Unilever work.
Much of the credit for the strength of the relationship should go to Helen Bell, COO of Lowe Worldwide but also COO of Unilever at Lowe. Bell, who is based in London, has seen a number of top execs at Lowe London come and go (some of them quite bizarrely) but has quietly got on with handling Unilever, the global account that keeps the agency network alive.