Media switch leads to threats

Unilever’s head of media says he has received personal threats as a result of his vocal campaign for greater transparency in the media market.

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By  Tim Addington Published  January 22, 2006

Unilever’s head of media says he has received personal threats as a result of his vocal campaign for greater transparency in the media market. Mike Gillam, who is also the founding secretary of the GCC Association of Advertisers, said the industry turned against him after Unilever dumped media agency MindShare in order to get a better deal with media owners by dealing with them directly. “People hate my guts. It wasn’t a popular move,” Gillam told Campaign. “There were agency heads going round media owners threatening them that if they did business with Unilever they would get no business from their agency. The industry closed ranks to ensure that our initiative failed and that no other client even considered going down that road.” Talking of the threats he personally received, Gillam, said: “People told me to be very careful.” There is no suggestion the threats came from MindShare. But Gillam added: “When we took our business in-house, my spot price on MBC1 went down by more than 40%.” Despite going it alone, Unilever has since formed a partnership with Interpublic buying house Magna to get a better negotiating position for the company. Through setting up the GCCAA, Gillam has led the push for a proper currency for buying TV based on reliable audience figures. The first phase is due to roll out in Saudi Arabia soon. And Gillam has encouraged other members of the GCCAA to get tough with magazines and newspapers that are not, or have no plans to be, audited. “I have told every client to tell their agencies — before you put any title on the negotiation list for 2006 I don’t want to hear anything unless you have also heard their plans to audit. They have got to show a plan,” he said. Late last year the GCCAA helped to set up the Circulation Audit Steering Organisation (CASTOR), which is calling for advertisers to boycott titles that do not have an independent circulation audit. Publishers have been given 12 months in which to start the auditing process or face losing lucrative ad revenue from some of the region’s biggest advertisers. Gillam’s comments have also been backed by two of the association’s leading members. Steve Wheeler, vice president of advertising at the Emirates Group, said: “We already favour audited titles and will begin to overlook unaudited titles in keeping with the GCCAA’s and CASTOR’s recommendations within 12 months. “We realise there is a set-up period for auditing and recognise that an amnesty period is required. However, we make no apologies if publishers are feeling pressured — we’ve waited long enough.” And Sameer Desai, marketing manager at GlaxoSmithKline Consumer Healthcare, warned publishers: “In the absence of reliable print audit data, a lot of advertisers, including us, are rarely using print as part of their media plan. The publishers need to realise that here key competition is not other publications, it is actually TV.”

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