Consumer goods multinational Unilever is considering pulling its advertising from online platforms such as Facebook, Google and Twitter unless they step up their efforts to protect children and remove posts that promote hate or create division in society.
The group released advance copy of a speech to be given by Keith Weed, its chief marketing officer to major advertising, media and technology company representatives meeting at the annual Interactive Advertising Bureau conference in Palm Desert, California.
Weed oversees an annual budget of €7.7bn (£6.8bn) for promoting Unilever’s well-known household brands that include Lynx, Dove, PG Tips and Marmite. The group is the world’s second largest marketing spender after Procter & Gamble
In his speech, Weed declares: “As one of the largest advertisers in the world, we cannot have an environment where our consumers don’t trust what they see online.
“And we cannot 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.
“Fake news, racism, sexism, terrorists spreading messages of hate, toxic content directed at children – parts of the internet we have ended up with is a million miles from where we thought it would take us.
“It is in the digital media industry’s interest to listen and act on this. Before viewers stop viewing, advertisers stop advertising and publishers stop publishing.”
In his speech, Weed also likens cleaning up the digital supply chain with the group’s efforts to find sustainable sources for its food ingredients and other raw materials.
“Unilever will not invest in platforms or environments that do not protect our children or which create division in society, and promote anger or hate,” he adds. “We will prioritise investing only in responsible platforms that are committed to creating a positive impact in society.
Unilever has cut back on advertising as part of a cost-saving drive. It is making fewer TV ads and has halved the number of ad agencies it uses to 1,500. The group has also said that it will partner with IBM to pilot blockchain technology and employ it to reduce advertising fraud.