Nicola Merrifield
Jun 25, 2023

Dove CMO: brand success more reliant on marketers than agency

Alessandro Manfredi, Dove's global chief marketing officer, says marketers need to be more receptive to creative ideas.

Alessandro Manfredi: 'Rat race' of delivering advertising at speed results in 'safe' work (Picture: Cannes Lions)
Alessandro Manfredi: 'Rat race' of delivering advertising at speed results in 'safe' work (Picture: Cannes Lions)

The creative ambition within a marketing team is the most crucial element of a brand’s advertising success – and more so than agency input, according to the global chief marketing officer of Dove.

Alessandro Manfredi said the “biggest illness” for Unilever-owned Dove is marketers lacking the ability to be receptive to creative ideas put forward by agencies.

Speaking at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity yesterday, he said the “rat race” of delivering advertising at speed, including the time it takes to test ideas, results in “safe” creative work that does not take risks.

During a roundtable discussion at the festival with Manfredi and Conny Braams, Unilever’s outgoing chief digital and commercial officer, Campaign asked how far Dove and other Unilever brands look to agencies to challenge them creatively. 

Manfredi said: “The biggest ingredient of our success is the creative ambition of our own teams. The point is not the agencies stimulating us, it is us being receptive to stimulation.”

He later added: “It is critical we create processes inside the company – because we are a big company and have many brands – that don’t make us safe [creatively].

“Because that is the biggest illness that we have, in really being receptive [to] our creativity with agencies.”

That is the reason why Unilever has brought its biggest ever cohort of marketers to the Cannes Lions festival this year, he added.

Unilever’s Creative Council, made up of chief marketing officers from its five business groups, as well as chief creative officers and executive creative directors from WPP, IPG, Omnicom, Oliver and Edelman, will also help the company overcome the problems, Manfredi said.

The council is aimed at increasing creative ambition, nurturing creative leadership and removing barriers to creativity, and chaired by Aline Santos, chief brand officer and chief equity, diversity and inclusion officer at Unilever.

During the roundtable, Braams added: “The Creativity Council, with internal and external people from agencies, is a testament to the fact we really value creativity and that we want to raise the bar on it.”

She later said: “It’s really important there is a home for creativity, where also our marketers can come and say, ‘This is what I’m thinking about, what are you thinking about [on] this creative idea’.”

Unilever has also set up a system of “evergreen briefs” that are available year-round and for which agencies on its roster can develop ideas. 

The briefs cover both products and broader brand goals – such as Dove’s soap bar, which launched in 1959 but has a chance to be made “more iconic”, but also the brand’s “How do we detoxify beauty” campaign aim, Alfredi said.

Campaign UK

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