Day 3 at Cannes: So what keeps a CMO up at night?

Gavin Gibson is OMD’s Chief Strategy Officer.


Keith Weed, CMO of Unilever

Keith Weed, the global CMO of Unilever, gave a great talk this morning where he highlighted the three major topics which keep him up at night.

The first was the issue around joining the dots in the digital ecosystem. As this is topical for OMD I will spend more time discussing it. This topic has been well documented in the trade press for some time, but it was interesting to hear directly from one of the most influential marketers in the world about the impact this is having on their business.

Transparency of the digital ecosystem, in particular, was a major concern, underpinned by how the industry defines success using digital metrics.

As Keith said, “Acceptable viewability, (that is) 50% of an ad (or pixels) being seen is not acceptable, and in any other world would not pass the common sense test.”

Keith also made a good point that the digital ecosystem is not treated as an ecosystem and every year there is a new headline which takes precedence. The reality – be it fraud, viewability or brand safety – all have an impact on inventory value and ultimately the ability to build optimal brand value through digital media. The solution is to address these issues as an entire platform and align on ‘common sense’ guardrails for metrics of success, versus just addressing the latest headline as it comes up.

The second big topic for Keith was diversity, and ensuring Unilever is representative of the culture and not stereotyping based on traditional advertising bias.

The third point was around re-imagining creativity, and the need to have a galvanising idea that delivers against the brands’ purpose. What I noted, in particular, was that Unilever’s top 8 brands represented 60% of growth at a rate 50% faster. This is a testament to the power of long term brand purpose and the importance of brand stewardship. Brand purpose trumps channel context relevance if it deviates at all from brand consistency.

We are often caught in a world of short-term campaign metrics, and focusing on the immediate spikes. The need to balance, and at times challenge, these metrics of success is paramount if we want to be ‘stewards’ of brand growth.

Kristin Lemkau, CMO of JPMorgan Chase also spoke about her concerns and the pressures of a demystified digital ecosystem. She spoke openly about her lack of trust in the data she is often presented with, feeling it was often ‘gamed’ to tell a positive story versus the truth… which ultimately enables her to make better informed and faster decisions. The complexity of the ecosystem means that the skills required of today’s and tomorrow’s CMO’s requires them to be across the technology stacks like never before.  ‘A mixture of technology scientist and brand custodian’  is a pertinent description for up and coming marketers and media agency folk, when considering the critical skill sets required to future proof themselves.

For today’s case study review, I have included two case studies which use data at the centre of the work to enable an enhanced consumer experience.

The first is the Adidas Green Light Run. Using data analysis, the Adidas team worked out the optimal route for urban runners in Japan who were often frustrated with having to stop at red lights. Gamifying the initiative takes it a level up again and a great example of how data analysis enables a better consumer experience.


The second is the Snickers Hungerithm. What I love most about this campaign is how it works across the entire consumer journey, ultimately driving incremental sales. The idea delivers on the long term brand purpose, made data analysis the focal point of the campaign and can be directly attributed to incremental business growth.


For my fun pick of the day, I recommend looking at the Jet Blue Fly Babies campaign, which took a negative and made it a brand positive. I loved this as my son would guarantee a lifetime of free flying and my wife and I would never think twice about a long haul family flight again.