Top Unilever Ad Exec Talks E-Commerce Advertising, Data – Business Insider

  • A top Unilever ad exec told Insider the CPG giant is looking for new ways to measure digital ads.
  • Unilever wants retailers to adhere to standards on how their ads are measured.
  • She said that the brand is also structured to account for bigger ad budgets moving to retail media.

Unilever, one of the biggest spenders on e-commerce ads, is pushing for retailers to adhere to the same measurement standards.

Speaking to Insider at the Interactive Advertising Bureau’s Annual Leadership Meeting in Marco Island, Florida, this week, Soumya Donkada, head of digital, media, and e-commerce for Unilever’s beauty and wellbeing brands in North America, is angling for retailers to measure ads to use the same metrics.

Unlike most of digital advertising, retail media does not have standards that allow advertisers to compare the efficiency of Amazon, Walmart, and Target, for example. The lack of standards gives retailers a competitive advantage and a way to pitch advertisers unique offerings, but advertisers have called for more alignment. 

For example, advertisers want retailers to measure attribution — a key measurement that tracks if someone bought something after seeing an ad within a period of time like a week or a month— the same way. Donkada said Unilever is also interested in standards around the APIs that advertisers use to buy retail media ads through software and data about the audience that they reach on retailers’ websites.

Donkada said such specifications for Unilever’s retail media ads would likely look similar to standards Unilever created for brand safety and also take into account privacy.

She said Unilever is also looking for new ways to measure digital ads more broadly as third-party cookies and other tracking mechanisms go away. More specifically, Unilever is looking for ad partners that can fill the gap between multi-touch attribution — a method that credits sales to every ad seller that a consumer saw before buying a product — and marketing mix modeling — a method that also takes into account non-advertising factors like price and location into sales over a long period of time.

She’s also interested in figuring out how to build long-term brand awareness through retail media. The bulk of retail advertising is performance-focused to drive sales for packaged goods brands. But retailers’ newer ad formats like data used to targeted ads on streaming TV platforms are interesting for Unilever because they are aimed at increasing brand loyalty and equity, she said. 

“Now we’re looking at retail media as any other channel,” she said.

One of retailers’ biggest challenges with retail media is getting new ad dollars from brands like Unilever that isn’t tied up in so-called trade and shopper marketing budgets that brands negotiate into distribution deals with retailers.

Unilever’s internal structure helps solve for some of those challenges, Donkada said.

Donkada leads three teams that handle all advertising, technology, and e-commerce for Unilever’s beauty and well-being brands like Dove, and Liquid I.V. The ads team manages both national and retail media spend, meaning that one Unilever team can tweak retail media budgets to be higher or lower. Donkada’s team also works with Unilever’s long-time media agency Mindshare to help carve out its budgets across multiple channels.

Unilever rolled out the structure last year to create one group responsible for overseeing all parts of growth.

“We sit at the heart of the business rather than sitting outside,” she said.


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