Unilever threatens to pull ads from Facebook and Google if they don’t clean up the ‘swamp’

Unilever threatens to pull ads from Facebook and Google if they don’t clean up the ‘swamp’
Consumer goods giant Unilever has threatened to stop advertising on digital and social media platforms, such as Facebook and Google, if they don't clean up their toxic online environments. (John Thys/AFP/Getty Images)

Unilever is threatening to pull its advertising from digital and social media platforms such as Facebook and Google if they don’t clean up their toxic online environments.

“We cannot continue to prop up a digital supply chain … which at times is little better than a swamp in terms of its transparency,” Unilever Chief Marketing Officer Keith Weed plans to say in a speech on Monday at the annual Interactive Advertising Bureau Conference in California, CNN reported.

What’s the story?

Weed will call for improved online transparency, according to his speech obtained by Reuters.

“It is critical that our brands remain not only in a safe environment, but a suitable one,” Weed plans to say.

The brand, which makes consumer goods, including Dove, Lipton, and Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream, is one of the world’s largest advertisers with an annual budget of more than $9 billion. About one-third of the budget goes toward digital advertising, according to Reuters.

Weed reportedly won’t call out a specific platform in his speech but does say that trust in social media is at a low citing a perceived lack of focus by tech firms to keep illegal, unethical or terrorist-related content off their websites.

“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, Reuters reported.

Facebook and Google, which have dominated the online ad market for years, are among the platforms that have faced scrutiny for contributing to an unsafe online environment.

“Fake news, racism, sexism, terrorists spreading messages of hate, toxic content directed at children … it is in the digital media industry’s interest to listen and act on this,” Weed plans to say. “Before viewers stop viewing, advertisers stop advertising and publishers stop publishing.”

The company said it will tackle gender stereotypes in advertising and would only partner with organizations committed to creating better digital infrastructure.

What else?

Weed recently shared his views with the company’s digital partners, including Facebook, Google, Twitter, Amazon, and others.

Last month, Facebook announced plans to prioritize family and friends posts over news stories and business content in an effort to improve its platform.

Unilever also recently formed a partnership with IBM. Together, they will be piloting blockchain technology that would provide reliable metrics for advertising and could reduce advertising fraud.

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