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Unilever's Di Como On 'TV & Everything Video'- MediaPost Publications

At Thursday's TV & Everything Video Forum, Unilever's VP of American media, Luis Di Como, told the crowd that in the spirit of the times, he would give three speeches for the price of one. That comic bit aligned with his broader theme: If marketers want to save money, they need to create partnerships that transcend the up-front orientation around the 30-second spot, and they need to remember what people have cared about for eons: a good story.

Although his speech was a tripartite lecture with the headings "Scream," "Screen" and "Script," ultimately, he said, it's about the story.

Di Como said that as a marketer, screaming is his instinctive response to the proliferation and fragmentation of media, and the light-speed changes in how people communicate. "You want to scream because you have to predict every day what the next big thing will be. My work has become so complicated, sometimes I feel that I am lost." But he said if he's lost, he's lost in a rainforest-style paradise "because it is raining opportunities. We really can do whatever we want, from laser targeting to new models of segmentation, to media partnerships."

Di Como said that even as Unilever pulls back on traditional advertising such as the 30-second spot, it actually increased marketing spend by €50 million in 2008. "We are decreasing investment in the traditional 30-second--but increasing it in other TV forms." He said that includes in-store POP marketing, where the company is testing point-of-sale couponing programs in supermarkets with mobile digital devices.

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"At the end of the day, regardless of the media, what consumers care about is story," he said, showing clips of Dove's Real Beauty campaign, and a campaign in Argentina for Ala laundry whitener launched in the depths of that country's long economic and political crisis in 2002, when the country at one point had five presidents in fewer than two weeks.

Said Di Como, a native of Buenos Aires: "The story was to ask consumers all over the country to give a piece of white or blue fabric to make the biggest Argentine flag ever to build national pride," he said. "We created a TV program to track all of this, on TV, on every medium. The brand was at the center of campaign." The ads centered on a child who is pulling the white and blue sheets off of his bed as his mother watches in consternation because he is late for school. He explains that it is for the biggest flag ever. "Why the biggest flag ever?" she asks. "Because it's ours," the boy says.

"Whenever you tell a good and relevant story, there will always be people willing to engage," said Di Como. "If our brand is at the heart of the story, our brands have higher bonding, equity and loyalty."

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