Published: Fri, February 16, 2018
Hi-Tech | By Ellis Neal

Unilever threatens to pull advertising from 'divisive' digital platforms

Unilever threatens to pull advertising from 'divisive' digital platforms

"We can not continue to prop up a digital supply chain - one that delivers over a quarter of our advertising to our consumers - which at times is little better than a swamp in terms of its transparency", Weed said at the IAB annual leadership event in Palm Springs.

Weed accused online platforms of being "little better than a swamp" when it came to transparency and said they could run the risk of hurting consumers' trust in brands. "If we have any hope as an industry of keeping the trust of our consumers, we need to overhaul the standards of behaviour in digital channels". "We can not do anything to damage that trust - including the choice of channels and platforms we use". Calling 2018 the year of techlash, Weed said this year will be when the world turns on the tech giants and collectively rebuild trust back in our systems and our society.

The world's second largest advertiser, Unilever, is set to make a stand over online safety and pledge not to invest in any platforms that "create divisions in society".

Unilever, as a trusted advertiser, does not want to advertise on platforms which do not make a positive contribution to society, Weed added.

Weed expressed concerns about the digital media supply chain, which accounts for a quarter of Unilever's advertising.

Competitor Rival now retorts P&G's claim: consumers do not care about fake visitor numbers, how advertisers earn the most and they do not even care about how their data is used or which complex algorithms are used to reach them. They don't care about good value for advertisers.

The move is significant for Facebook and Google, given that Hindustan Unilever spends around 15% of its advertising and market budget on digital platforms. In its March cover story, interviews with 51 current and former Facebook employees revealed that the company has been plagued by several challenges, including fake news as well as accusations that the Facebook platform might have been used for election meddling.

Unilever will commit to pulling investment from any platforms that do not do enough to protect children or crack down on "fake news, racism, sexism and terrorists spreading messages of hate".

One of Brazil's top newspapers, Folha de S. Paulo, said last week it would stop publishing on its Facebook page after the social network announced it would give personal content more visibility. With an annual ad budget approaching $10 billion, Unilever is one of the world's largest spenders.

On Monday, Unilever's chief marketing officer Keith Weed called on Silicon Valley to better police what he described as a toxic online environment where hate speech, propaganda and disturbing content that exploits children thrive, The Washington Post reported. I think they are committed to making big changes and I would argue that our approach has worked well. This potentially opens the door for TV broadcasters to lure ad dollars away from digital platforms, as TV is often seen as a transparent, brand-safe environment, albeit more expensive than digital advertising. "However, it also throws up the question about who will judge what is sanitised content", said media commentator and ad industry veteran Santosh Desai.

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