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Brands and agencies must fight for future creative talent in face of competition from Google, Facebook & Twitter, says Unilever CMO Keith Weed


By Jessica Davies | News Editor

June 19, 2014 | 4 min read

Brands and agencies are facing fierce competition for creative talent from the likes of tech giants Google, Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest, which are “all sucking up creative talent” from the market, according to Unilever CMO Keith Weed.

Speaking at Cannes Lions this morning, Weed said the race for talent has never been so fierce, with everyone from technology giants, to start-ups, to agencies and brands all continuously on the hunt for creative talent, which all need to remain competitive.

He said: “There has never been such a premium on creativity and that’s a real concern for me. Creativity is more and more important to break through the clutter.

“In the past a young creative might join a big creative ad agency, or a boutique one, but that same talent is now being spread out among the Googles, Facebooks, Twitters and Pinterests of this world – all sucking up creative talent. Then of course there are all the start-ups too."

Unilever has already rolled out a major start-up investment plan called The Foundry, created to help it form partnerships with those start-ups which have technologies and ideas which it can scale across the business and help it achieve standout in the era of the Internet of Things.

“This is a simple way for start-ups to work with us and – and add fresh talent and brands to our business,” he added.

Weed cited the increasingly fragmented connected landscape as “chaotic” and called for the industry to work together to tackle the complexity, which can be demonstrated in the various lumarscapes across social, mobile and data ecosystems.

“When we talk of mobile, social and data we are having to ask people to work with all three [lumarscapes]– it’s chaos, and highly complex. We have machines talking to machines and trying to navigate it is increasingly difficult – and it’s going to get worse.

“We need to find a way to simplify this business. I urge people to step back and think of how we can simplify it."

A way of achieving this simplicity is via partnerships with tech partners such as Google – an avenue Unilever explored for its 'All Things Hair' campaign, launched last December. The campaign was a hit across all digital channels, but this was due to the fact that it was able to circumvent the confusing ecosystem of specialists by working directly with Google and YouTube, according to Weed.

Finding a way to orchestrate across the fragmented landscape is crucial to maintaining competitive edge, he added.

He also referenced other initiatives such as Project Sunblock, but added that these were examples of work that had taken a dozen companies all working together to combine expertise.

"It's not a matter of doing something with one agency anymore – this will be a real challenge for us in how we make this happen. We need to orchestrate how we use all the specialists."

This fragmentation has also led to an unhealthy amount of focus on channel effectiveness and strategy as opposed to what is right for the brand, according to Weed. The numerous mobile and social specialists are also focusing on producing 100 per cent channel-specific results, whereas what all should be focusing on is creating 110 per cent for the brand.

He mapped the evolution of marketing as the past's 'Marketing to the people', to the method most widely used today – 'marketing with people', to what the future of marketing should be – 'marketing for the people'.

"We must lead by brands and not channels and must find a way to orchestrate all this together. If we can do that we will end up achieving marketing for the people – and if we do that will have a very bright future ahead."

Unilever worked with digital agency R/GA to create and launch its start-up platform The Foundry.

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