Gavin Stirrat, COO Adimo on Unilever ending food marketing to children

unilever child marketing announcement - Orig image by Mircea - See my collections from Pixabay

Unilever made the surprise announcement on Thursday that it plans to stop marketing its sugary foods and beverages to children.

The move comes as more companies and governments take responsible steps to protect the health of their customers and citizens, especially the young. 

So what will it mean for the global brand’s marketing strategy in a world where other limitations and regulations are on the horizon, such as the demise of so-called cookies (no pun intended)?

Gavin Stirrat is COO at Adimo. He welcomed Unilever’s announced, but warns there could still be strategic challenges ahead…

Gavin Stirrat
Gavin Stirrat, COO Adimo

“The move by Unilever to no longer market food and beverages to children under 16 is one that should be applauded.

There is no doubt that the brand is taking a responsible approach with its proactive decision, and could well indicate an important trend of major, influential brands taking more control of the environments in which their marketing and advertising is experienced.

It will be interesting to see how their strategy evolves as a result of this decision. With the imminent demise of third-party cookies making targeting – or negative targeting, as in this case – more difficult on the open web, it could mean they shift spend to run more contextual ads. 

Alternatively, spend may move to the walled gardens, with their authenticated logins. However, with many brands publicly expressing concerns about the divisive impact some platforms are having on society, and their desire to support more diverse high-quality media, this may not align with Unilever’s broader brand objectives.

It is also well known that it is easy for under age children to make up a date of birth when they set up social media profiles, to gain access to these sites. 

The answer to this strategic challenge may be to focus on sites where the authenticated login includes a verified date of birth. This is commonly achieved by linking credit or debit card details to the login.

As a result, D2C channels and retail media could both be beneficiaries.

With eMarketer reporting retail media spend in the US growing by 53.4 percent in 2020 to $31.49 billion, this is already a significant advertising channel. Decisions like this one from Unilever could accelerate this opportunity even further.

Finally, Unilever and other brands looking to take similar action will inevitably look to increase the influence and conversion from the channels they own, principally their brand.com websites.

Historically this was a challenge for FMCG brands, however with new innovations in shoppable media and last mile logistics made easier with new delivery partnerships, this starts to look like a smart strategic move by Unilever.

It will be interesting to see how other major FMCG brands respond in the months ahead.”