Unilever threatens online ad cuts to clean up internet


FILE PHOTO: The logo of the Unilever group is seen at the Miko factory in Saint-Dizier, France, May 4, 2016. REUTERS/Philippe Wojazer/File Photo
PHOTO: The logo of the Unilever group is seen at the Miko factory
in Saint-Dizier


LONDON (Reuters) – Consumer goods giant Unilever , one of the
world’s biggest advertisers, has threatened to pull investment
from digital platforms such as Facebook and Google that “create
division” in society or fail to protect children.

Keith Weed, chief marketing officer at the maker of Ben &
Jerry’s ice cream and Dove soap, will announce the company’s plan
in a speech later on Monday at the annual Interactive Advertising
Bureau conference in California.

In the speech, Weed will call on the technology industry to
improve transparency and consumer trust in an era of fake news
and “toxic” online content.

“Unilever, as a trusted advertiser, do not want to advertise on
platforms which do not make a positive contribution to society,”
Weed plans to say, according to a copy of the speech seen

Unilever also said it is committed to tackling gender stereotypes
in advertising and will only partner with organizations that are
committed to creating better digital infrastructure.

Unilever itself was heavily criticized last year for a Dove
advert on Facebook that many saw as racist. Amid a social media
backlash and calls for a boycott, the brand apologized, saying it
“missed the mark in representing women of color thoughtfully”.

“Consumers don’t care about third party verification. They do
care about fraudulent practice, fake news, and Russians
influencing the U.S. election,” Weed plans to say. “They don’t
care about good value for advertisers. But they do care when they
see their brands being placed next to ads funding terror, or
exploiting children.”

Unilever has already been slashing its advertising spend, as it
seeks to cut costs across the organization. It has cut the number
of ads it makes and the number of agencies it works with.

Google, a unit of tech giant Alphabet , and Facebook are
estimated to have taken half of online ad revenue worldwide in
2017 and more than 60 percent in the United States, according to
research firm eMarketer.

Officials at Facebook and Google in Europe were not immediately
available to comment.

Weed’s comments echo complaints made a year ago by Procter &
Gamble Chief Brand Officer, Mark Pritchard, who has lamented fake
ad clicks by automated ‘bots’, the risk an ad can appear on
social media next to an ISIS recruitment video and the
realization that people don’t watch 30-second video
advertisements any more.

Only 25 percent of online ad spending reaches the consumer, with
the rest skimmed off by a “murky, non-transparent, even
fraudulent supply chain” within the industry, Pritchard told a
digital marketing conference last autumn in Cologne, Germany.

Facebook executives visiting Europe last month made a public
show of contrition about the social media giant’s slow response
to abuses on its platform, seeking to avoid further legislation
along the lines of a new hate speech law in Germany it says goes
too far.

“We have over-invested in building new experiences and
under-invested in preventing abuses,” Facebook’s communications
and public policy chief, Elliot Schrage, told a tech conference
in Munich.

(Reporting by Martinne Geller in London and Douglas Busvine in
Frankfurt; Editing by Kirsten Donovan)

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