News & Views

Cannes Lions / Keith Weed - Marketing for People

by Alex Jenkins

Keith Weed took to the Cannes Lions stage yesterday to talk on the subject of Marketing For People.

The Unilever chief marketing and communications officer described how the industry has traditionally marketed to people - broadcasting to a captive audience - and is now increasingly at a stage of marketing with people - curating and creating with an audience. However, he believes that the future of the industry is in marketing for people.

To interrogate this idea, Weed showed videos throughout his presentation featuring interviews with influential figures, such as BBH founder Sir John Hegarty, head of WPP Sir Martin Sorrell, ex-CEO of Twitter Dick Costolo, and Diageo CMO Syl Saller, among others.

He reported that, during his various conversations, three recurring themes came out: the idea, the trust, and the transformation.


Weed outlined that everyone has embraced the whole area of storytelling, but warned that it has to be inspirational in order to touch people: '85% of the brain's processing power is below the level of rational consciousness. When we start thinking about storytelling to engage people rationally, we're missing out on a huge part [of the brain]. We have to engage people with their hearts. We have to engage people to inspire them to take action.'

To illustrate what he meant by engaging people through their hearts, he showed Unilever's Choose Beautiful campaign for Dove:

In order to engage at a emotional level in different regions, he advised that it was important to tap into the local culture - specifically, for a Dove campaign running in France, the brand tapped into cafe culture:

A key area of interest for Unilever is mobile, with Weed citing stats such as 47% of teens in the UK using Snapchat every week.

'Since talking here last year, there have been 440 million new mobiles. It's the equivalent [if stacked together] of 20 Eiffel Towers a day... and that's still happening. It's increased mobile traffic around the world by 69% - with all the opportunities for geo and personal targeting.'

In a video interview, ex-CEO of Twitter, Dick Costolo, stated that the single biggest change currently happening is the transition to video primarily produced to be consumed on mobile - i.e. it's portrait rather than landscape and shorter form.

In terms of 'The Idea' and how it relates to attention, Weed cited a Microsoft study which found that the average person's attention span had dropped in the last 15 years from 12 to eight seconds,while a goldfish's attention has remained at nine seconds.

'On a web page you have three to six seconds to capture someone's attention. It's not what's your best, most creative idea? It's 'what is your most creative idea in five seconds?'

It was a sentiment echoed by BBH founder John Hegarty in a video interview shown on stage: 'It isn't any longer about the size of your budget, it's about the size of your idea and the breadth of your idea.'

Weed went on to outline a point of view close to Contagious's own heart: 'We are an industry of ideas. Technology has helped us brilliantly to connect. But we've got to remember it's not about the technology - it's about the ideas. You can't replace the creativity of the human mind with a piece of tech.'


The second major theme of the Unilever talk was trust - trust between brands and consumers, but also trust between different players in the industry. With so many new players that weren't part of the marketing mix five years ago, Weed stressed the importance of building relationships.

'The industry is in chaos. The industry is in change. With all that chaos and change, it's going to be more challenging to build trust across the industry.'

Diageo's Syl Saller, shown on video, pinned the problem down by saying she felt there wasn't enough trust between clients and agencies and that the agency model of 'selling' work was an outmoded way of operating. 'Clients aren't listening enough to the advice, the thoughts, the creative that we pay agencies good money to bring us'.

Meanwhile, Eric Salama, CEO of Kantar, observed that, while the business has become more complex, people are spending too much time managing that complexity rather than focusing on what people really need.

Weed's own opinion on the subject was that the fragmented landscape had given rise to an array of specialists, all of whom want to drive '110% solutions' for their particular area of expertise. 'But I want a 110% solution for my brand - even if it's a 90% solution for mobile or an 80% solution for social. That fragmentation is pulling our brands apart. We must have trust between the players to truly integrate the business again.'

On the subject of trust, Weed also touched on measurability and reliability of digital and the issue of ad fraud, citing research from both Nielsen and Google that anywhere between 40-50% of online ads are not reaching the target audience.

'Depending on who you speak to, there's about $6-10bn of fraud. There are more bots on the internet than humans. On a site, about 29% of the traffic is from a bot. So are you paying for the eyes of a bot, or are you paying for the eyes of a human?'


In the final section of his talk, Weed covered the need for transformation in order to truly market for people. In his view, one of the ways of achieving this change is to partner with startups, as Unilever has done with its Foundry initiative:

'To succeed in this changing world, we need to think very differently. One way of thinking differently is engaging with the very people who are innovating... Those sorts of partnerships are the way we're going to transform the industry. We need to engage with where the innovation is.'

However, he also stressed the importance of transformation for the brands themselves, putting societal purpose into their way of operating in order to be trusted by consumers.

'This is marketing for people. This is connecting purpose with purchase. It's doing good and doing well at the same time. I want to build the Unilever U as the trust mark for sustainable living.'

Demonstrating that doing good for the world can also be good for business, Weed reported that Unilever's 'sustainable living brands' - e.g. Dove, Lifebuoy, Ben & Jerry's - last year accounted for 50% of the company's growth. In fact, they grew twice as fast as Unilever's other brands.

'Is there evidence that sustainability and purpose built into the core of our brands is delivering sales? Absolutely. And we believe this will grow and grow as we go forward. But we need to get business models that reflect this. We need to mainstream sustainability'.

Weed ended his talk by showing a video about - an initiative designed to engage millennials in a more sustainable future, and in a positive way.

'Brands and marketers need to lead for this new future. We can do well and do good. We can market for people. We can connect purpose to purchase. We can make marketing great again. I believe there's never been a better time for you and I together to create a bright future.'