Unilever In Threat To Quit Digital Ad Platforms Over Objectionable Content

One of the biggest advertisers in the world, Unilever, has threatened to stop running ads on digital platforms that include Google and Facebook if they fail to offer protection to children or continue to create divisions in society. In a speech delivered at a conference in California organized by the Interactive Advertising Bureau, Unilever’s chief marketing officer, Keith Weed, said digital platforms were filled with fake news, extremist, sexist and racist content and urged the tech sector to improve consumer trust and transparency.

In the ad sector Unilever wields considerable clout. Per AdAge it is the fourth-largest advertiser in the world behind Nestle, Samsung and Procter & Gamble. Last year the Anglo-Dutch transnational spent approximately $8.6 billion on ads.

Russian meddling

The warning from Unilever to digital platforms comes in the wake of Facebook rolling out changes to its newsfeed. It also coincides with lawmakers in the United States scolding the social media giant for helping in the spread of disinformation campaigns including by the Russians during the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

In the recent past YouTube, which is owned by Google, has indicated that it will raise the number of employees who oversee content on its platform. This comes after a couple of clients withdrew from advertising on the video-sharing platform following the placing of ads on videos of kids associated with pedophiles.

Despite the criticisms levelled against the two online advertising platforms, Facebook and Google are expected to get over 65% of all the digital ad revenues in the United States this year per eMarketer. In absolute terms Google is expected to capture over $40 billion while Facebook will get close to $22 billion.

Trust and safety

After the remarks by Unilever’s chief marketing officer, both Facebook and Google said they were working hard to ensure that their platforms achieved the trust and safety that clients expect. Objectionable online content is expected to remain a concern for marketers and consumers alike despite the assurances by the two tech giants.

In a survey conducted by the Chief Marketing Officer Council last year in July, about 85% of the respondents said they were concerning at how easily they were able to come across content that was hateful and offensive.

“Consumers expect brands that they invest their time and their money in to to be responsible citizens of the Web. They expect them to understand and know where their brand is being seen,” the senior vice president of the CMO Council, Liz Miller, said.

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