Falling viewing figures persuade Unilever to divert TV adspend to other areas of marketing

Unilever has shifted 20 per cent of its annual marketing budget out of traditional TV advertising and into online, outdoor and relationship management campaigns over the past five years.

The change in the FMCG giant's ad focus, which has resulted in around £60 million being removed from the TV market each year, was highlighted by the Unilever vice-president of global marketing, Alan Rutherford, in a speech at the Royal Television Society conference in Cambridge. Commenting on the decision to alter its marketing strategy, he said: "Advertisers have got to follow the viewers."

The news comes as ITV1 continues to suffer a decline in its audience share, with viewers defecting to rival channels and ad revenue falling as a result.

Unilever's overall spend on TV advertising has fallen from 80 per cent of its £300 million annual budget in 2000 to around 65 per cent today.

The company's largest single relationship campaign is Flora's sponsorship of the London Marathon.