Unilever warns social media to clean up “toxic” content

Consumer goods giant Unilever, one of the world’s biggest online advertisers, has fired a warning shot across the bows of social media giants by threatening to pull ads from digital platforms if they don’t do more to mitigate the spread of what it dubs “toxic” online content.

According to CMO Keith Weed, “2018 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.”

Unilever’s Weed also takes aim at ad fraud, noting how it’s partnered with IBM to pilot a new blockchain tech for advertising — which he touts as having “the potential to drastically reduce advertising fraud by recording how media is purchased, delivered and interacted with by target audiences, providing reliable measurement metrics”.

But the main message is tilted at social media giants’ need to “build social responsibility” — and invest in trust and transparency to avoid damaging the precious substance known as ‘brand trust’ which the tech giants’ revenue-generating digital advertisers depend on.

Craig Tuck, of programmatic marketplace RhythmOne, says, “Unilever is another example of a brand reviewing their strategy to ensure they remain trusted. When trust is in question, consumers often revert to their own network – meaning there’s more emphasis on dark social. 74% of sharing activity takes place across email and instant messaging, so having the tools to analyse this trend properly will become increasingly important. Digital brand safety is incredibly complex and will be a key area that advertisers look at when allocating their media spend going forward.”

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