At least five global agency groups are set to line up to contest Unilever’s international media-buying review after the consumer goods giant formally kicked off the contest.
“We can confirm that we are doing a media agency review that is part of our standard process to ensure best in class media agency partnership,” a Unilever spokesperson said, without giving further details about the geographical scope of the review or potential participants.
It is thought the process is still at an early stage, after Campaign previously reported in January that Unilever was preparing to call the review in most markets outside China.
The company is said to have issued invitations to a wide number of agency groups but there is no detail on how the company plans to run the process or shortlist them.
WPP, Omnicom and Interpublic are incumbents on the media account for one of the world’s largest advertisers, which spent 7.1 billion euros (US$8.3 billion) on brand marketing investment last year and owns brands such as Ben & Jerry’s, Comfort, Dove, Hellmann’s and Marmite.
Industry observers suggested that Dentsu and Publicis Groupe are also looking at pitching for Unilever in some regions of the world.
Spokespeople for Dentsu and Publicis Groupe would not comment when approached by Campaign.
Both Publicis Groupe and Dentsu have close relationships with Procter & Gamble, a major rival to Unilever, in some markets but observers noted that it could be possible to manage potential conflict given that different WPP agencies have been able to handle media for both clients.
Publicis Groupe won a large shopper marketing brief from Unilever in the US earlier this year.
One source cautioned that a large number of major global pitches, including Coca-Cola, Facebook and British Airways owner IAG, are underway and some agency groups will consider carefully how to focus on the best opportunities.
It is thought China is unlikely to be included in Unilever’s review because WPP picked up the account from Omnicom following a review there in spring 2020.
Europe made up about 22% of sales, the Americas 32%, and the rest of the world, including Asia-Pacific, Africa and the Middle East, 46%, according to Unilever’s 2020 annual report.
The UK-based group has holding company relationships with WPP, Omnicom and Interpublic in different geographies around the world.