Unilever says it will pull advertising from platforms with "toxic online content"


One of the most powerful people in advertising says digital platforms need to lift their game to regain consumer trust and that the secret is out about the sordid state of the digital advertising supply chain.

"As one of the largest advertisers in the world, we can not have an environment where our consumers don't trust what they see online", Mr. Weed will say. It would prioritise investing only in responsible platforms that were committed to creating a positive impact in society.

Weed said he had met Unilever's digital partners, including Facebook, Google and Twitter at the global Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas in early January, where he "repeated one point to each and every one of them". We can't do anything to damage that trust - including the choice of channels and platforms we use.

Mr Weed said that this year "is either the year of techlash, where the world turns on the tech giants - and we have seen some of this already - or the year of trust, the year where we collectively rebuild trust back in our systems and our society".

The Anglo-Dutch group - which is behind Dove, Marmite and Ben & Jerry's ice cream - confirmed that it will not invest in "platforms or environments" that breed division, or promote anger or hate, or fail to protect children. Thus far, it has been mainly an internal industry concern... But the nearly daily increasingly volume of mainstream coverage shows that the jack is well and truly out of the box. "We have mainstream consumer coverage, and as an industry, we seem to be sleepwalking on progress, on things which are fundamentally hygiene factors".

"Fake news, racism, sexism, terrorists spreading messages of hate, toxic content directed at children..."

Over the last five years, its spending on digital media has more than doubled while its investment in creating digital content has gone up by 60 percent.

"This is a deep and systematic issue, an issue of trust that fundamentally threatens to undermine the relationship between consumers and brands".

Weed said the issue is not dissimilar to Unilever's commitment sustainable agriculture resources and the company could no longer "meet the values of one while holding the other at arm's length".

Unilever is focused on "responsible content" and "responsible infrastructure".

Until another of the big tech players steps up, we can expect the likes of Unilever and P&G to continue to pump cash into advertising with Facebook and Google.

"Consumers don't care about third party verification".

"What Unilever are saying is, 'We are looking to be responsible, what about you?' At a similar point previous year brands such as Pepsi, the British government and Johnson & Johnson pulled out of advertising on YouTube because banners appeared over videos posted by extremist groups".

In response, YouTube deleted hundreds of accounts and removed more than 150,000 videos from the platform in November.