Unilever, Bacardi, Amazon: 5 things that mattered this week and why

Catch up on all the big marketing news from this week, including Keith Weed’s speech, Bacardi’s restructure and Alexa’s cat food blunder.

Unilever marketing boss Keith Weed

Unilever issues warning to ‘toxic’ digital platforms

Unilever’s Keith Weed became the latest top marketer to call out digital platforms and the murky digital supply, taking to the stage at the IAB’s annual conference in California and threatening to pull investment from platforms that “breed division” or fail to protect children from toxic content.

Weed was, although he didn’t say so in quite so many words, taking a swipe at Facebook and Google, as well as Twitter, Snapchat and Amazon. He wants these platforms to ensure they are “making a positive contribution to society”.

His speech, comes just over a year after Procter & Gamble’s brand chief Marc Pritchard issued his own infamous call-to-action. Weed wants many of the same things as Pritchard – a clean up of the “swamp that is the digital supply chain” and universal metrics. But he went one step further, calling for platforms to play a role in the type of content on their sites and, therefore, the type of content advertising appears next to.

Unilever says that rather than laying out a public roadmap for change, it wants to work collaboratively with digital platforms to find a solution. If they can’t, it will be interesting to see if Unilever puts its money where its mouth is.

READ MORE: Unilever threatens to pull ad spend from platforms that ‘breed division’

Bacardi’s new ‘three horizon’ strategy

Bacardi’s new global CMO John Burke is giving its marketing department a structural make-over, as the drinks brand looks to drive accountability “as low as it can go” to create a responsive marketing organisation that can make “real change”.

Speaking exclusively to Marketing Week, Burke explained how the drinks brand is trying to create an environment where people are genuinely empowered to make a difference, and how its hands-on approach with brands is giving it a competitive advantage.

He described his strategy as having “three horizons” – rebuild, release and transform – which will focus on better cross-platform marketing and a stronger functional capability. A new programme to upskill the organisation is also set to begin in May.

The changes are a sign that Bacardi sees a need for a more holistic approach to product innovation and marketing, as well as a need to instil effectiveness across the business.

READ MORE: Bacardi restructures marketing to ‘bring accountability closer to the front line’

Sainsbury’s marketing lead moves to creative agency

Sainsbury’s head of marketing strategy Sarah Ellis is doing what very few brand marketers do and making the switch to agency land. She is set to join creative agency Gravity Road, which has clients including Sainsbury’s, B&Q and Mondelēz International – as managing director.

While the road from agency to client is well trodden, it is still much less common for senior marketers to move into leadership positions in agencies. Ellis says she was drawn to the role by the variety of both challenges and opportunities that working for a smaller, younger company would bring.

As a new mum, Ellis says she was also attracted to the agency’s flexible working; but explains why it’s equally as important to be flexible with a 21-year-old intern or somebody training for a marathon as it is a parent.

READ MORE: Why Sainsbury’s Sarah Ellis made the rare move from brand to agency

Alexa to…Alexa?

This week, the Advertising Standards Authority cleared an Amazon TV ad of being “socially irresponsible” for waking up a customer’s device and placing an order for cat food.

While Amazon said it has technology in place to prevent things like this from happening, it certainly raises a number of questions around privacy and how secure these devices actually are.

For We Are Social’s innovation director, Tom Ollerton, the “blip” highlights the fact that Amazon Echo and Google Home devices still significantly under-deliver compared to their dotcom experiences.

And from a legal perspective, for Geraint Lloyd-Taylor, deputy head of advertising and marketing at law firm Lewis Silkin, the real problem is that it’s much harder for manufacturers of voice assistants to guard against ads created by third parties.

READ MORE: Amazon TV ad escapes ban despite causing customer device to place an order

100 days to GDPR


It might feel like marketers have been talking about it for the last century, but it’s been less than two years since the biggest shake-up to data law in two decades was announced. And now the 100-day countdown to the compliance deadline has begun (we’re now at 98, and counting!).

Marketers have had plenty of warnings about the penalties for breaching GDPR, and plenty of optimistic reassurances about the opportunity for improving customer relationships.

But questions remain over what the most important things they need to do are to ensure their use of personally identifiable information is within the law.

READ MORE: GDPR: Five questions marketers must answer before May



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