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How Unilever is navigating digital challenges in a huge, diverse and dynamic market

Jonathan Elliott

Key Takeaways

  • Precision marketing through programmatic can present unique challenges in a market as diverse and large as Latin America
  • Adapting content for programmatic so that creative teams can catch up with the demands of digital in a rapidly evolving landscape will be one of the top issues for 2024
  • Creativity determines 70% of the effectiveness of a campaign; you will always need both the magic and the metrics working together
  • In a multichannel consumer environment, Unilever has worked closely with individual platforms to discover what works and encode that in a unified digital playbook
  • The plan to restructure teams so creative, media, and content all work more closely together has paid off, along with a can-do attitude that rewards proactive, solution-focused thinking

Jonathan Elliott: How does programmatic media buying affect content creation for FMCG in the Latin American market? 

Ana Paula Duarte Rocha: Programmatic media buying in Latin America has influenced our content creation strategy for FMCG. After a couple of years of focusing on precision marketing and personalized content for smaller target audiences, we reassessed and shifted back to broader audience targeting. While programmatic remains a significant part of our media plan, the balance between niche and general creative approaches is an ongoing discussion. We now prioritize larger targets for our major brands, particularly in the expansive market of Brazil.

JE: Sometimes, there's a catch-up with creativity in digital marketing. What is your experience with current production processes? Are they catching up with digital advertising?

Ana Paula Duarte Rocha: Digital marketing creativity is catching up, but there's still work to be done in automating and making creative production more dynamic. While media adaptation is easier, creative processes are lagging behind. Despite piloting various suppliers and technologies, we haven't found the ideal solution yet. Looking ahead to 2024, enhancing creativity remains a significant challenge, with programmatic media adaptation being relatively straightforward in comparison.

JE: Creative has traditionally been this slightly intuitive, subjective experience. It has been left to the judgment of individual creative people and is somewhat free of metrics. How can you make a creative output match the precision required?

Ana Paula Duarte Rocha: Balancing creativity and precision involves combining magic and metrics. While the initial big idea and storytelling require a touch of magic, deploying assets and analyzing metrics become crucial. Achieving a high creative standard is challenging but essential, given that creativity contributes to 70% of the media's impact on plans. Standard metrics such as viewer engagement, sharing, and brand lifts are used, but the process isn't always seamless, with various bumps in the timeline.

JE: Talking about multichannel - how do you adapt to the sort of challenges in marketing when you've got a multi-screen world, where somebody's got a mobile and an iPad while they're watching connected TV? And how do you engage with consumers consistently across all those different channels?

Ana Paula Duarte Rocha: Adapting to the challenges of a multi-screen world involves close collaboration with major partners like TikTok, Meta, Google, and Twitter/X. Unilever has developed a global playbook by discussing best practices and content strategies tailored to each platform. This playbook outlines guidelines for various platforms, considering factors such as video length, pacing, and tone of voice. The insights are then shared with marketing teams, creative agencies, and media agencies, supported by digital mandatories as a checklist for best practices. The collaboration extends to more media partners within Unilever and Consumer Market Insights (CMI) partners, consolidating learnings and building comprehensive playbooks.

JE: How do you improve collaboration between the marketers and agencies on one side and creative and media teams on the other? Quite often, they have different cultural backgrounds and different ways of doing things, and they think differently. 

Ana Paula Duarte Rocha: To enhance collaboration across diverse teams with varying cultural backgrounds and perspectives, Unilever prioritizes transparency and depersonalization. Recognizing the importance of facts and consumer insights, emotional claims are set aside, allowing data-driven discussions to guide decision-making. The company's recent restructuring physically integrated media teams with content and creative teams, fostering a unified approach with shared goals and objectives. This collaborative structure has resulted in more productive conversations with marketing, aligning everyone toward the common objective of making brands famous and driving growth. Continuous adaptation and a culture of reviewing and adjusting working methods contribute to sustained improvement in collaboration and outcomes. Unilever encourages a mindset that embraces experimentation, learning from failures, and focusing on solutions rather than dwelling on setbacks, fostering a conducive environment for innovation and progress.

Ana has more than 20 years of experience in marketing, media, and digital. She has held various management positions in local, Latam, and global operations in Brazil, the United States, and the United Kingdom in different businesses such as food, personal care, laundry, and others. Most recently, she has the double hat of leading the Digital media commerce HUB for PC Latam and media for UL Brazil.

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