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Unilever CMO: 'I’d love to see agencies take responsibility for reintegrating'

This week in Cannes: Unilever chief marketing officer Keith Weed talks to Johnny Hornby, Founder of The&Partnership, about the need for agencies to reintegrate and focus on content over tech.

Johnny Hornby: How do you work out what you make time for – and what you don’t – during this busy week?

Keith Weed: Some people come to Cannes and say: 'Oh, I’m not sure, I didn’t get very much out of it.'

If you don’t then it’s your fault. Because everything’s here – just be choiceful.

Johnny Hornby: Is it indicative of the changing nature of Cannes, and the changing nature of communications, and the changing nature of your job… Has this now become a tech conference rather than an ad conference?

Keith Weed: It’s interesting you say that, actually. If you look back at the years that have gone, we saw the arrival of content companies, we’ve seen the arrival of digital companies, and you can see it stage by stage. Cannes seems to grow each year in different directions.

Johnny Hornby: Everyone’s talking about how the Maths Men and the Mad Men need to come together – and it’s an ‘and’ not an ‘or’ – do you think the agency models are set up properly to be able to cope with bringing those people together?

Keith Weed: I think one of the biggest challenges we have as an advertiser trying to engage with the agencies is this whole challenge right now around integration. And if I then compare and contrast with back in the days of walking into Berkeley Square and going to see JWT, and there you would have your TV ad and your print ad, and maybe a poster …

Because it’s ideal packaging for you … That was an agency that basically integrated everything and came to you. And we have now specialist agencies giving 110 per cent solution for social or a 110 per cent solution for mobile – it might be an 80 per cent solution for the brand.

The biggest thing I’d love to see the agencies do is take responsibility for reintegrating.

Johnny Hornby: This all needs to be brought back together in a coherent way, because otherwise how the hell can the client deal with 27 agencies? And it needs to be brought together in a financial model that allows the smart people from the different disciplines to work together and be completely agnostic about what the solution ends of being – so if the solution is led by experiential and backed up by search, you can’t have the ad guy and the media guy in the room needing to be able to make commission on something so that he can’t join in a healthy conversation.

Keith Weed: No, I totally agree with you. And I’m sure it’ll happen.

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