WPP – whose biggest client is Unilever – has appointed the company’s former global marketing chief Keith Weed to its board of directors in a non-exec role, in a move it claims will tap into his knowledge of building brands across digital and content, as well as on sustainability.
Weed, who retired earlier this year, had overseen Unilever’s relationship with WPP for the nine years since he was handed the top global role but he has not always been entirely complimentary about the holding company.
In March this year, on the eve of his retirement, Weed said: “I’m a huge supporter of WPP. They are our biggest agency network, and I’d say the job they’ve done at least with Mindshare as part of Group M on the media side has been brilliant.”
However, he went on: “They’ve become fantastic around media but, there’s been a huge focus there. But it now needs to reinvent the creative leading edge.”
In April 2017, Unilever said it planned to halve the number of agencies it worked with, cut the amount of advertising it created by 30% and expand its in-house U-Studios. In March this year, Unilever said it saved more than €500m (£444.2m) in 2018 due to the efficiencies of in-housing and reusing assets.
Weed, who was named the world’s most influential CMO by Forbes for three consecutive years – 2017, 2018 and 2019 – last year threatened to pull Unilever’s digital adspend unless the likes of Facebook, Google, Twitter and Amazon stopped spreading illegal and extremist content.
However, this is still an ongoing issue and Unilever continues to spend, spend, spend.
WPP’s chairman Roberto Quarta said: “Keith is one of the world’s most influential and successful marketers. He has a deep understanding of our business, the ways in which technology is transforming marketing, the sectors in which we operate and our FMCG clients in particular. We are very pleased to welcome him to the WPP board.”
Weed is also president of the Advertising Association, president of the History of Advertising Trust, a board member of Business in the Community and a member of McLaren’s Formula One advisory board.
He said: “I have worked with WPP for many years, leading brand-led businesses around the world. I look forward to contributing to WPP’s future, leveraging my understanding of building brands in a rapidly changing world – from digital and data to content creation and sustainability.”
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