As a general trend, brands have been allocating more and more money to digital advertising. Every year, budgets generally grow as brands become more and more comfortable with the internet and what it can offer.
But one brand, Unilever, isn't afraid to grow more quickly than most. According to AdAge, the company is doubling its investment in digital this year and isn't concerned about "getting ahead of consumers." In fact, that's precisely what it wants to do. As the company's CMO, Keith Weed, sees it, the consumer goods company's investment in digital is necessary for long-term growth.
"The truth of the matter is we're seeing this huge migration across the world to digital. We need to be ahead of the consumer, so when the consumer arrives, we're already there," he told AdAge.
To that end, the company is making sure it has its digital bases covered. It's investing in social media, for instance, and will be increasing its Facebook spend. It's also a big believer in mobile, and is one of the advertisers shelling out big bucks to be a part of Apple's iAds launch. According to Weed, Apple's foray into the mobile advertising space is going to be "massive."
While some, myself included, might question whether hefty investments in iAds, for instance, constitute the best digital investments out there from a purely financial standpoint, Weed is treating advertising a lot like product development, and wants to ensure that Unilever has its own division for advertising 'R&D'.
That's certainly not a bad idea. At the end of the day, short-term ROI is important, but large brands like Unilever have the money to experiment as well and experiment they should. Not to do so would be penny wise and pound foolish. That said, forward-thinking brands like Unilever shouldn't forget an important fact: getting ahead of the consumer may be possible, but the real goal is reaching the consumer effectively once they get there.
That, of course, can be challenging and it's easy for brands to let their excitement get the best of them. Case in point: Weed's comment that "when you see the interactive nature of the ads you can get on the iPhone, you can get with iAd, oh my God, it's like someone reinvented TV" seems to ignore the fact that while iAds may be magical, consumers won't be buying iPhones for the ads, just as they have never bought televisions for the commercials.
From this perspective, brands like Unilever should focus just as much on making sure that they identify where they reasonably fit in on emerging digital platforms as they do on making sure that they have a presence on those platforms when consumers get there. After all, finding next weekend's hot party is usually pretty easy; making sure you fit in once you arrive can be a lot harder.