Unilever heads to Rotterdam in worrying move for adland

Unilever is the UK’s third biggest company with a market value of £105bn but the Anglo-Dutch CPG giant has chosen Rotterdam over London as its new single legal base, leading to much fretting over the implications of Brexit for other large UK companies.

Will it make any substantial difference to the way Unilever operates? It’s already moved about 100 jobs to Rotterdam and is set to abandon its flagship London HQ (below) which will doubtless be occupied by a foreign bank.

The stately Unilever has already undergone some dramatic changes over the last couple of years, since it fended off an unwanted takeover bid from Kraft Heinz.

It’s switched to zero-based budgeting (as is the way these days), slashed its agencies and moved much production in-house through its U-Studios in partnership with on-site agency specialist Oliver. The new mantra is “save money.”

Influential CMO Keith Weed, currently leading the charge against online waste/fraud along with P&G’s Marc Pritchard (both men were enthusiastic adopters of all things digital not so long ago) will presumably be off to Rotterdam too. Further changes at Unilever can be expected when CEO Polman steps down. Will the new CEO, whoever he or she is, be as keen on cause-related marketing as we’ve seen with Dove and, less happily, Axe?

It’s another worry for agencies who used to see Unilever as one of the ad industry bankers.

Update

Unilever tells me that it’s not, as widely reported, planning to abandon its flagship Victoria Embankment HQ (pictured above) and that CMO Keith Weed and most of its 7,300 jobs are staying in the UK.

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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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