- Unilever and WPP have introduced an in-house collaboration with the startup community of Unilever Foundry, based at the Level3 co-working space in Singapore, a WPP blog post announced.
- The initiative will create a new Team Unilever model designed to help the company drive innovation across its brands and respond to consumers’ changing needs and emerging technologies.
- The collaboration will utilize talent from multiple WPP agencies, the Unilever Foundry and more than 50 startups. Sudipta Roy, managing director of Team Unilever for the Singapore Hub and SEA, will lead the effort.
The new partnership is an important win for WPP, which has been having a bad week and even worse first half, and also offers new details on Unilever's previously announced commitment to bringing more marketing functions in-house. By tapping into its incubator program, startup community and the expertise of WPP’s agencies, Unilever is responding to disruption in the consumer-packaged goods industry, where well-established brands are struggling to keep up with innovative direct-to-consumer startups, via a new model designed to streamline how it addresses emerging technology and evolving consumer needs and shopping habits.
“This exciting collaboration is the first step in laying the foundation of the marketing services ecosystem of the future," said Pier Luigi Sigismondi, president of Unilever, South East Asia & Australasia, in a statement.
It’s interesting that the CPG giant would join forces with WPP on this endeavor as traditional ad agencies themselves have been struggling with responding to digital disruption. However, what agencies do offer is creative and international know-how and infrastructure, two things that could be useful for startups as their innovations are scaled up.
The desire to be more innovative and cut costs has led major international brand marketers like Nestle to trim the number of agencies that they work with. Unilever launched its own in-house agency U-Studio in 2016 to save money on ad production and placement. The cost savings allowed the company to invest an additional $300 million-plus in media buying and in-story advertising in 2017. P&G is similarly reducing the number of agencies it works with and testing innovative new agency models.