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Unilever, Publicis and the Pour Tout Vous Dire CRM sale

Posted by John Horniblow on Sep 9, 2009 in Consumer Relationship Marketing, Email Marketing, User experience |

Written for and reposted from http://blog.label.ch

One of the more interesting pieces of news I read in the last week was that the Paris-based holding company Publicis Groupe said it has acquired Pour Tout Vous Dire, the French customer relationship management program of a key client, Unilever. While the exact figures have not been disclosed Publicis has obviously seen this as buying a solid media entity that you can build upon. In its original form the CRM program was a direct to consumer magazine that has since morphed into a lifestyle portal online with over 5 million subscribers. This evolution in CRM programs is not an uncommon move in FMGC industry ( but the sale of them to an agency is ) . For instance in France FMCG CRM programs from Unilever’s direct competitors like Club Nestle a loyalty club and brand driven magazine, is now an online community and lifestyle portal Croquons la vie, and Danone et Vous a former magazine is also a lifestyle and product publishing site.

Publicis obviously values the quality of Pour Tout Vous Dire’s consumer database who are attracted to a wealth of content and services on the site. Companies like Nestle, P&G , Danone and Unilever are all building and expanding these lifestyle content driven CRM sites. As they boost their direct to consumer communications digitally they behaving like publishers creating specialist lifestyle content with the added benefit of adding product offers and services to consumers. As magazine patronage sinks the value of these specialty content driven sites as credible media entities becomes more real. The value of the audience in these CRM sites is tremendous. Think of P&G’s Being Girl sites for the Tampax brand first started in the US is now rolled out in 29 countries worldwide with a reported 400% more effective reach than traditional media. The consumers on all these sites are demographically qualified and if the CRM databases have stored more behavioral information such as interests, content profiles , propensity to use coupons, etc then you have a predictive goldmine for highly targeted communications as well as good content.

Publicis’ move also underscores the agencies are potentially becoming competitors to the companies they work with. As the media companies are increasing their foothold in digital they are buying up digital properties where there’s good content aggregation and known audiences. The agencies are morphing. Media buyers are becoming the media, investing in online Ad networks and now even as we have seen in this move buying their clients sites. It may not be a big deal for Publicis, however, it sets a new precedent.

Unilever sold its CRM site with a free run advertising and communications deal for five years and may be allowing Publicis to build a bigger media entity then could have built themselves. I have no predictions on whether this will or won’t work. What is clear is that Unilever sold its consumer database as a credible asset. No doubt it had invested hard to build it and its consumer’s loyalty, however, its hard for me to reconcile that sale. I believe that when a consumer gives their personal information to company it is done in a relationship of trust with that company. Yes the company is building an asset and returning a value and service in return, however, I don’t think the consumer information or even their trust and loyalty should bought, sold, and treated as such.

This blog is published and maintained by John Horniblow AKA BladeDigital ™ : On the Cutting Edge

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