Nearly a quarter (24%) of Unilever’s global ad budget goes towards digital media, up from 20% in the same period last year.
The percentage of the FMCG giant’s digital spend is now nearer 50% in digitally-advanced markets like the US and China.
However, in markets like India, that percentage is reduced to the lower double digits.
Unilever is the second-biggest spender on advertising in the world, behind packed goods rival P&G, according to Adbrands.net, which compiles ad spend data from several sources.
In 2014, Unilever spent $8.3 billion on advertising, AdAge reported.
Despite the increase in marketing spend, the company is adopting a policy of “zero-based budgeting”, which means marketers have to justify ad spend every quarter.
Quarterly results – Digital boom in China
Unilever’s first-quarter 2016 sales growth were driven by emerging markets, which saw sales grow 8.3%.
However, sales in the largest region – Asia/ North Africa, Middle East, Turkey /Russia, Ukraine, Belarus: which represents 75% of Unilever’s sales in emerging markets – grew at a slower rate, seeing sales rise 3.5% on the back of higher volumes.
Unilever is experiencing growth in China thanks to investments it has made in digital initiatives. Last year, Unilever announced a tie-up with Chinese e-commerce retailer Alibaba.
“We are growing strongly in e-commerce in China which nearly doubled in the last year, largely through our partnerships with Alibaba,” CFO Graham Pitkethly said.
In the first quarter in China, Unilever said it saw mid-single digit growth in sales, which all came from volumes.
Around 7% of Unilever’s business is in e-commerce and it could well be 10% by the end of the year, the company forecast.