A view from Noelle McElhatton

Editor's Comment: Unilever's 'magic' push has its sceptics

The British public has never been more in love with magic.

Just add up the viewing and/or readership figures for TV series such as Merlin, or the Harry Potter books and films, and there is the proof.

Do British marketers share this passion? Maybe one does. As exclusively revealed by Marketing last week (26 October), Unilever has thrown down a 'more magic, less logic' gauntlet to its agencies, a challenge welcomed by the creative community.

Marketing's scoop on Unilever senior vice-president of marketing Marc Mathieu's rallying cry to agencies was the talk at The Marketing Society dinner last week.

Yet why are those in the know so sceptical of a fundamental shift in Unilever's approach (see page 14 of this week's Marketing)? One could argue that Mathieu is building on global campaigns that already prove the value of going against the grain, such as Dove's 'Real women' and Persil's 'Dirt is good'. As insiders know, however, those campaigns were no easy sell.

The world of Harry Potter was created in the head of one woman. Will Unilever's 'collegiate' marketing structure allow agencies even more latitude to wave their wands over its brands? Without that degree of risk-taking, the jury is out on the company's ability to cast the right spell.

Man U's digital platform plan
As we know, Manchester United FC has a following far beyond the streets of Old Trafford, from the homeland of Ryan Giggs to that of Park Ji-Sung. As we reveal on this week's front page, the club is set to build its own Facebook-style digital platform, a move that reeks of the same ambition that drives manager Sir Alex Ferguson.

Facebook claims 800m users; Man U about 350m fans. If the club mimics the engagement and buzz of the dominant social network, the result would be like winning the quadruple - every year.