Unilever has announced an extension of its investment in The Next Big Thing, which will see the company invest up to $50k in new marketing start ups.

Chief marketing and communications officer, Keith Weed, explained that, as the world’s second largest advertiser, it must actively embrace innovation in marketing and advertising:

“In this dynamic and complex word, it’s challenging for marketers to stay abreast of the change, whilst ensuring they’re bringing the right technology to the right brands, at the right time,” he said.

“Here in the UK we are privileged to have access to a vibrant tech start-up scene. There is a lot Unilever can learn from technology entrepreneurs and vice-versa. Our investment in The Next Big Thing reflects Unilever’s desire to experiment with new technologies, develop an agile, launch-and-learn culture and stay ahead of the game, whilst at the same time enabling startups to benefit from our global scale. Getting this right is fundamental to our future success and the wider digital economy.”

15 shortlisted start-ups will pitch to a panel of brands and agencies in October, hoping to win the chance to work with the Unilever Foundry and win £5,000 in prize money. Finalists will also gain access to the marketplace with free exhibition space at ad:tech London.

“The Next Big Thing 2015 will challenge entrepreneurs, Unilever and our accelerator partners to realise the next generation of investment-ready marketing and technology start-ups,” added James Drake-Brockman, ad:tech’s head of EMEA.

“Featuring new partners, an extended programme of public events and one-to-one networking sessions, the initiative encapsulates the current enthusiasm for progressive brands like Unilever and start-ups to forge new alliances that push the boundaries of marketing innovation.”

Last year’s winner was seenit, which successfully pitched to judges from Unilever, Havas Media, Diageo and Shop Direct. The company has since partnered with Unilever on 10 projects worldwide and counts Bacardi and the BBC on its roster.

More details are on the Unilever Foundry website.