Marketing chief Keith Weed leaves Unilever

Keith Weed, Chief Marketing Officer at Unilever, is about to retire after 35 years at Unilever. Weed became famous as a critic of online advertising channels like Google and Facebook.


Is Unilever dropping marketing officers?

Unilever's marketing expert, born in 1961, says he is ready for a new chapter and will be retiring in May. The news of his departure coincides with the appointment of a new CEO as Paul Polman will be replaced by Alan Jope on January 1st.


Unilever says it will delay looking for Weed's successor until the new CEO is in place, as it will be up to Jope to decide how the company's marketing policies will be determined in the future. A spokesperson in the Wall Street Journal even suggests the possibility that there may not be a new CMO at all, as Jope is known to be a builder of brands with an eye for marketing and Unilever's divisions are already governing their separate marketing budgets. As such, the overarching role of CMO might disappear as Unilever wants to become faster and more flexible, especially after a hostile takeover by Kraft.


Criticising the giants of online advertising

Although Weed did push for digital marketing at Unilever, he is known for his harsh criticisms of the current media and advertising industry. He famously called the digital ecosystem "murky and fraudulent" in his speech at the IAB advertising congress. He even threatened to stop advertising through online channels unless they became more transparent in their revenue models and took their social responsibilities seriously.


"The biggest challenge we have is that we need to rebuild trust in advertising," Weed told the Wall Street Journal. "The industry still needs to work harder to fix the things that are undermining that trust such as data breaches, the bombardment of ads, fake followers and fake news." Unsurprisingly, he intends to keep playing an important role in the industry in his future activities.


Unilever veterans are going away

In a statement, Weed said that he has been privileged to lead some of the best marketing, sustainability and communication teams in the world. "As the world’s second largest advertiser, we have been able to leverage our scale for effectiveness and efficiencies, and we have also been able to leverage our scale for good, leading to greater responsibility, transparency and accountability in the advertising and digital industry," he stated. In the latest financial year, the combined marketing budget for all Unilever brands was eight billion euros, putting the group in second place after Procter & Gamble.


Weed is not the only veteran leaving Unilever: Head of R&D David Blanchard, who has been on board since 1986, is also bringing his long career to an end. Blanchard will be succeeded by Richard Slater, former head of the research department for consumer products at GlaxoSmithKline.