The initiative is intended to drive programmatic planning and buying for the FMCG giant in the ASEAN region.
Speaking to Campaign Asia-Pacific on the sidelines of the Media360Summit in Hong Kong last week, Rahul Welde, the company's VP, Media, described the project as a hybrid model.
“While the trading desk is proprietary, we think our current partner Mindshare is best equipped to kickstart it,” he said. “It’s still early days, but so far we feel quite comfortable with this hybrid model.”
Welde said that the area of automated planning and buying is providing opportunities for both the industry in general and players like Unilever on two main fronts.
“The first is the ability to target better and to provide more relevant messaging to our consumers,” he said. “The second is the ability to buy significantly better across the board and make efficiencies work harder—that is what really led us to commence our journey with this trading desk.”
Mindshare and Unilever teams have been working together for the past few months to test and understand the available technology stacks and the right set of partners to power Ultra.
The desk has been set up with a view to work with the best-of-breed technologies and capabilities. The setup also allows for constant experimentation and drives an agile way of integrating the technologies available.
The desk had its soft launch in October last year, with Welde adding that it was important to be able to pilot a programme to iterate and improve upon.
“Before you scale up, it’s best to plunge into it in beta mode. It’s a matter of understanding things better and iterate,” he said. “At our soft launch it started with a few campaigns in one market and today, we’re at multiple campaigns in multiple markets in a few different categories.”
Asked about what has been the most interesting discovery in the months since work began, Welde said that the one thing that struck him is the team’s ability to move much faster.
“That ability is often underestimated, things are now happening at a literal press of a button and what really came to the fore during this was the ability to execute across countries in one go,” he said. “Much like how Netflix launched across 130 countries at CES this year with a push of a button, that’s exactly the way this area of automation is going, and it’s quite interesting for us.”
Gowthaman Ragothaman, chief operating officer, Asia Pacific at Mindshare described Ultra as “unique” in a statement issued.
“It is a built for purpose programmatic unit with agile planning at its core with capabilities to manage real-time triggers,” he added.