Unilever has started a global review of its estimated £3 billion media planning and buying business, currently handled by WPP's Mindshare in the UK.
The global FMCG conglomerate has also launched a new marketing strategy, Crafting Brands for Life, designed to better position products within consumers lives.
The global review will include the services for its four core categories – Foods, Refreshment, Home Care and Personal Care – in 53 markets, including the UK, North America, France, Germany, Spain, Russia, India and China.
The group's international portfolio of brands includes Knorr, Hellmann’s, Lipton, Dove, Vaseline, Persil, Cif, Marmite and Pot Noodle.
Unilever spent £137m on media activity in the UK in 2010, according to Nielsen. Mindshare currently handles all of the business in Western Europe and the Nordics, valued at £700m, and also its £515 million ($800m) business in North America.
Unilever's media business in China, which includes Hong Kong and Taiwan, is valued at £450m and is currently handled by Omnicom's PHD. The business in much of Eastern Europe, including Poland, is also held by PHD.
IPG Mediabrands' Initiative network handles the Unilever media business throughout Latin America and also in Russia.
The latest global review process will start next month (January 2012), and be led by Luis Di Como, senior vice president of Global Media at Unilever.
Incumbents Mindshare, PHD and Initiative will be invited to repitch for the business, along with other networked media agencies large enough to handle the business invited to pitch.
Di Como said: "Our new marketing strategy, Crafting Brands for Life, and our determination to continue leading in the digital marketing space also drive us to ensure that we are working with the best agencies to deliver our ambitions.
"The exercise is also in line with company policy to review media agency arrangements periodically."
Mindshare last defended the UK part of the business in 2009, when Carat, Initiative and PHD all vied for what is one of the biggest accounts in media. The last global review officially began in July 2009 and took more than a year to be completed.
Unilever is one of the world’s leading suppliers of fast moving consumer goods with operations in more than 100 countries and sales in more than 180. According to company statistics, consumers buy 170 billion Unilever packs around the world every year, and its products are used over two billion times a day.
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