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Unilever CMO Keith Weed to retire from company in May after 35 years

The chief marketing officer has long advocated for better measurement of digital advertising

Suzanne Vranica & Saabira Chaudhuri | WSJ 

Keith Weed
I have been privileged to lead some of the best Marketing, Sustainability and Communication teams in the world... I am moving onto another chapter: Keith Weed, CMO, Unilever

Chief Officer will retire from the company in May, the consumer-products giant said Thursday.

Mr. Weed, 57 years old, has been at for 35 years. The announcement of his departure comes shortly after the company named to succeed longtime Chief Executive The company, along with its rivals, faces many challenges, including a shift in consumer tastes.

“I am moving onto another chapter,” Mr. Weed said in an interview.

Mr. Weed has been an outspoken marketer for many years and has long advocated for better measurement of digital He frequently called on digital such as Google and Facebook to “stop grading their own homework.”

More recently, Mr. Weed began leveraging Unilever’s ad spending power to push the digital media industry to weed out content that exploits children, spreads false news, or supports racist and sexist views.

Mr. Weed said he intends to stay active in the industry and continue to push for change.

“The biggest challenge we have is that we need to rebuild trust in advertising,” he said. “The industry still needs to work harder” to fix the things that are undermining that trust such as data breaches, the bombardment of ads, fake followers and fake news, he added.

“These issue are all solvable,” Mr. Weed said.

spent more than $9 billion last year its brands such as Lipton, Dove and Knorr, according to the company’s annual report.

“I have been privileged to lead some of the best Marketing, Sustainability and Communication teams in the world,” Mr. Weed said in a statement.

“As the world’s second largest advertiser, we have been able to leverage our scale for effectiveness and efficiencies, and we have also been able to leverage our scale for good, leading to greater responsibility, transparency and accountability in the and digital industry.”

Mr. Weed’s role was increasingly in question at Unilever in recent years, particularly after Unilever found itself on the receiving end of a hostile bid from Kraft Heinz Co. , according to people familiar with the matter.

While Mr. Weed led a team that accelerated Unilever’s push into digital and is responsible for all Unilever’s relationships with agencies, he doesn’t control any of the marketing budget for its brands, which is instead controlled by its three division heads, the people said.

One option now, according to one of the people, is for Unilever to scrap the CMO role and instead assign responsibility for the marketing functions to marketing heads within each of its three categories: beauty and personal care, home care, and food and refreshments.

The company has a deep bench of people with marketing expertise it could choose from for such roles, the person said.

Unilever has been trying to simplify its way of working to be more agile and responsive, a drive it accelerated after Kraft’s approach. Devolving the marketing role could help it delayer and make more locally focused decisions, said this person.

A spokeswoman said the company won’t immediately name a successor because the decision will be up to Mr. Jope, who starts as CEO next month.

Mr. Jope has been described by people who have worked with him as a brand builder himself, someone who is likely to be more focused than the departing CEO on Unilever’s marketing.

In an internal memo announcing Mr. Weed’s retirement, Unilever also said its head of research and development, David Blanchard, was stepping down and will be succeeded by PLC’s head of research and development for consumer health care, Mr. Blanchard has worked at Unilever since 1986 and had been its R&D chief since 2014.


Source: The Wall Street Journal

First Published: Sat, December 08 2018. 01:52 IST
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