Sources involved in the review noted that the roster carries a lengthy conflict policy. This bars agencies from handling corporate work for a number of competitors, including P&G, Kraft, L’Oreal, Reckitt Benckiser and SC Johnson.
However, Ogilvy EAME Md Ash Coleman-Smith specifically denied that conflicting business is a factor.
Unilever's global brand PR director Marjolein van Kampen this week confirmed that Chime Communications agency Icon and Cake Group had joined the trio of GolinHarris, Fleishman-Hillard and Salt London tipped by PRWeek last month (PRWeek, 4 February). The lengthy selection process began in May last year.
It was also confirmed that two other agencies that Unilever works with on a global basis – Edelman and Kaizo – will miss out. ‘We found that Edelman had too much competitive business,’ said van Kampen, adding that existing alignments – such as Edelman’s business with Knorr and Dove – would be unaffected until they are reviewed.
Unilever currently spends approximately £92 million pounds on its global PR activities, which includes local market spend. The new roster, however, is specifically focused on new briefs that call for communications advice around global brand positioning and strategy for Unilever’s brands and categories.
‘Local brand teams can work with any of the global agencies but in principal they can make their own selection,’ said van Kampen.
Unilever already counts existing relationships with all of the agencies selected to its roster. Long-term partner Salt London currently handles most of the global business, including Sunsilk, oral care, household care, Lifebuoy and Vaseline. GolinHarris currently handles Magnum, while Fleishman-Hillard oversees its Heartbrand ice cream range.
Ogilvy is in charge of Pond’s and Lux, and Icon currently works on Ades.
The creation of the PR roster mirrors other initiatives Unilever is taking to organise its agency relationships. The company is currently reviewing its digital agency roster. ‘We’re not forcing through these agencies,’ said Unilever head of agency relations Edoardo Freddi. ‘The purpose of these agencies is for new business coming up.’