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This is the start of the journey to brands becoming like publishers, says Unilever’s global media lead

Unilever's Hamish Priest

Now is the time for brands to embark on the road to becoming more like publishers with regard to their content strategies, according to Unilever’s global media categories and partnerships for the Dove brand Hamish Priest.

Speaking at The IPA’s Diversification Adaptathon in London last night, Priest said that “this is the beginning of the journey to brands becoming more like publishers”.

He admitted brands are not yet regarded as publishers by consumers but that may change in time as brands throw their weight behind creating meaningful content experiences for consumers.

“We are continually tying to diversify our content to reflect people's changing ways of consuming content,” he said.

One of the brand’s methods of doing so is to partner with bloggers, which can help it attain the “authenticity” in the mind of consumers. "We are trying to marry together the worlds of the brands and the bloggers – that can help us attain that authenticity and credibility. It takes a collaborative effort to get to content like that,” Priest said.

He added that the role of distribution is as important as the creative itself and must be baked in from the start. “Two billion people use our products every day. In order to really make a difference the content needs to have scale and reach.

“At the start of the digital revolution, particularly around people trying to create engagement, people were spending lots of money creating content, but it wasn’t getting the reach to make a real difference to the bottom line, which resulted in a very expensive content experience – a bit like creating cathedrals in the desert. The distribution is therefore just as important as the actual creative,” he said.

Unilever's diversification strategy includes experimenting beyond the 30-second spot, with content that responds to cultural topics in real time, which is a challenge, Priest said.

“When you’re creating content you must act fast to milk it and maximise its potential. When trying to create content that responds to culture the window of opportunity is very light. In recognising this we created a manifesto – which meant we wanted to create a new piece of content every day – and it totally changed how we worked.

This is how it approached its Dove Real Beauty Sketches video creative (below), which has since clocked some 170 million views, making it one of the most watched ads ever, according to Priest.

"We realised it doesn’t need to be perfect every time, it’s ok not to please everyone, and it doesn’t need to work every time - let’s try it and see how it works. We created 100 pieces of content to support Sketches," he added.

His comments came as part of the IPA’s Adaptathon series of content labs which kick off today, in which agencies and brands will experiment on new ideas together, as part of the IPA’s ongoing commercial creativity strategy introduced when president Ian Priest took the helm last year.

Opening the event last night Priest said that although the world continues to change, business models haven’t much in the last 30 years. “I want to encourage clients and agencies to adapt to deliver commercial creativity. Hopefully the result will be commercial creative contract.

“Over the past three months we have been looking at the foundation of our business and at how we can adapt to look from pitches to longer-term relationships. Today is about diversification – traditional advertising - one dimensional - to more multi-dimensional advertising,” he said.

The event, which took place at Millbank Tower, will continue until Wednesday with a series of labs hosted by The Bakery, Google and Power to the Pixel.

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