Cannes Lions Day Five: Unilever marketing boss warns industry's 'out of touch’ brand managers


Unilever’s chief marketing and communications officer Keith Weed spoke on day five of the Cannes Lions festival discussing the new digital challenges facing traditional brands. Watch highlights from the event here, also featuring Astrophysicist Neil Degrasse Tyson, this year's Lion of St Mark Joe Pytka, and Dentsu with Andy Lippman.

Speaking at the #BrightFuture segment of the day, Weed said talked about the shift from “marketing to people”, to “marketing with people”. He also discussed the problem of a “lost generation of 40-year-olds leading brands”.

“In the last four and a half years as CMO, things have changed more than they have in the last 25 years. That has created chaos. It also presents huge opportunities for those who embrace the change. Content in real time is what advertising is competing against. The competition is with Hollywood and TV channels. The competition is all of you,” he said.

He underlined Unilever’s point of view on marketing, where brands engage with customers on scale – the stated positioning of ‘Crafting brands for life’.

He pointed to three headers to define the current state of marketing. The first, ‘Putting people first’, he elaborated with the case of Kan Khajura Teshan, executed in the media dark areas of Bihar.

Responding to a question about whether brands should be using native advertising given regulatory scrutiny over the blurring of the lines between advertising and editorial, Weed said: “Clearly like all these things innovation is going on in the market. The very people engaging and trying to shape this and in a very well meaning way are the very people that are not digital natives, we have an extraordinary situation where we have a lost generation of people from 35 to early 40s who lead a lot of our brands. 

 The people who are not natives are trying hard to make sense of the changing world.”

Weeds added when these “natives” mature, confusion over new digital formats will cease.

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