Could Unilever be Marketing’s Bob Geldof?


In 1994 chart topping artists from the UK got together to raise awareness for famine victims in Ethiopia, creating a holiday tune, ‘Do They Know It’s Christmas?’, that 23 years later still has a confirmed place in the UK Christmas playlist.

Bob Geldof, former lead singer of the Boomtown Rats, was famously the catalyst for this event, providing the drive and inspiration for a traditionally self-absorbed industry to understand its power and do something with it for the greater good of mankind. I know, bold statement – “the greater good of mankind” – but let’s face it, that’s what the dude did.

In marketing we have a similar reputation of being self-serving, more excited when someone does something cool that sells more Oreos than saving the world, but maybe we have an opportunity to make a difference. And to that end, could we have our own hero, cast in the mould of Sir Bob in the unlikely figure of Keith Weed from Unilever?

I am of course referring to the recent news that Unilever has taken a stand over the fast and loose approach that social platforms are taking to their social responsibilities – by threatening to withdraw their advertising budgets.

The problem with that, despite the significant spending that Unilever has, is it’s not really going to make a particularly huge dent in the revenues of Google or Facebook. Unilever has an overall advertising spend of €7.7bn. A big number, true, but one can assume that social advertising is a small proportion of that budget, and it pales in comparison to the €40bn 2017 revenues of Facebook.

In the same way that ‘Do They Know It’s Christmas?’, probably wouldn’t have been such a success with just Bob and without his headline act collaborators (however much of a fan you might be of the Boomtown Rats), so Unilever’s Weed maybe needs the Sting, Duran Duran and Bannanarama of the current advertising scene to get on board and make the changes he wishes to see happen.

I’ve not seen other brands rush to join the cause, but, according to The Guardian, Paul Frampton, the former head of the UK division of French marketing services group Havas, said that Unilever’s threat to boycott Google and Facebook could be a pivotal moment for digital advertising, likening it to the momentum of the #MeToo movement that has put a spotlight on sexual harassment and assault.

It’d be kinda cool if he gave Sir Bob a buzz though…

Ian Truscott is Head of Marketing for fast growing software vendor, censhare - READ MORE

This article featured in our SOUND CHECK issue, check out more articles and back stage insights in our debut publication.

Ian Truscott

Some text to put in my profile