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Unilever Marketing

‘It’s undoubtedly good for agencies’: Unilever U-turns on moving London HQ to Rotterdam


By Jennifer Faull, Deputy Editor

October 5, 2018 | 3 min read

Unilever has cancelled plans to move its headquarters from London to Rotterdam following mounting pressure from investors.

Unilever Marmite

Marmite, a Unilever brand

The potential relocation had been on the agenda since March, after the FMCG-giant – which has headquarters in both London and Rotterdam – announced it would consolidate into the Dutch city.

Unilever's has a dual-headed structure which was established in 1930 when Dutch margarine firm Unie merged with British soap maker Lever Brothers.

Investors had criticised the decision abandon the UK-Dutch stock market listing, saying that a single Rotterdam HQ could force UK shareholders to sell their shares.

Unilever claimed in a statement it had "received widespread support for the principle behind simplification.”

"However, we recognise that the proposal has not received support from a significant group of shareholders and therefore consider it appropriate to withdraw," it added.

Good news for agencies

Though it’s difficult to say how much disruption the move would have been on suppliers, that its global HQ will remain in London is “undoubtedly” good news for the advertising industry.

The company is one of ad land’s biggest spenders, investing €7.7bn a year in global marketing activity (according to its 2016 report).

Paul Bainsfair, director general at the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising said it “welcomed” the news.

“While it is an Anglo-Dutch company, the heart of the company is Lever Brothers, and it would have been a great shame if they had moved to Rotterdam,” he said. “While we can’t know for certain how big a threat the move would have been for the British agencies on Unilever’s roster, this is undoubtedly good for them and Unilever itself.”

The Drum reached out to several of Unilever’s listed agencies. Many declined to comment but one said: “the reality is that it wouldn’t have made much difference to us – our clients are already spread around different countries and their bases would have remained the same even if the corporate HQ had moved to the Netherlands.”

This week, it was also revealed that Unilever planned to forge long-term “purposeful” relationships with influencers and monitor KPIs in a bid to evoke more transparency from such partnerships.

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