'Start-ups are inventing the future in adland' says Unilever marketing chief

Agencies need to engage with start-ups because they are "inventing the future" of the industry, according to Jeremy Basset, the global marketing strategy director at Unilever.

Jeremy Basset: the global marketing strategy director at Unilever
Jeremy Basset: the global marketing strategy director at Unilever

At the Innovation Stories conference held in east London earlier today, Basset said Unilever took 50 start-ups to the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity last month to pitch to the industry.

Basset oversees Unilever Foundry, the FMCG giant’s in-house start-up programme that nurtures new businesses with an eye to eventually partnering.

He said: "The world’s second biggest advertiser has realised that start-ups are inventing the future in the advertising industry… it’s about time that the industry engaged with them.

"The future has already been invented. At Unilever, it’s easy for us to build our own capabilities, but there’s no need because you can partner with what has already been developed. Our role is to help start-ups to scale up. That’s why in May last year we launched Unilever Foundry."

The company launched Unilever Foundry with the help of Karmarama and has had 3,000 applications, with $6 million (£3.9 million) invested into pilot start-ups.

Basset told the conference delegates that people need to embrace the idea that failing is part of the journey through "launching and learning, rather than plan and perfect".

He also called for more collaboration in the industry which he believes will fuel innovation.

Lawrence Weber, the managing partner for innovation at Karmarama, said: "[Agencies] have got to embrace these types of relationships and think you add value through curation and collaboration and not worry too much about who is going to build something.

"If you’re worried that you’re the one that’s going to get paid for something, such as coding or making content, then you’ll stumble over the opportunity that I think is there to work in different ways."