Unilever warns online media: we can no longer advertize like this

Unilever warns online media: we can no longer advertize like this
Foto: Casper1774 Studio / Shutterstock.com

Unilever has threatened to pull its advertising budget from online media channels that lack transparency and create discord according to marketing director Keith Weed’s statements at the IAB advertisers’ congress.


“The digital ecosystem is murky and fraudulent”

Unilever is the second largest advertiser in the world, with a 7.7 billion euro annual marketing budget: only Procter & Gamble spends more on advertising. About a quarter of its budget goes towards online marketing, but chief marketing officer Keith Weed expressed his concerns about online media’s credibility at the influential IAB congress in London.


The speech is an open warning to tech giants like Facebook, YouTube, Google and Twitter, because he complains about how “fake news, racism, sexism, hate-spreading terrorists and toxic child-focused content in parts of the internet have brought miles from where we thought we could go”. “The current digital ecosystem is murky at best, fraudulent at worst.”


Unilever says it only wants to invest in platforms that take up responsibility and engage to have a positive impact on society. It only wants to collaborate with organizations that provide a better digital infrastructure. Tech companies that do not protect children or that create rifts, will no longer have the brand manufacturer as a partner, Weed said. 


Not an ultimatum, but need for talks

Nevertheless, the Dutch-British FMCG giant does not want to impose an ultimatum, but says it wants to work on a solution and already engaged online partners like Facebook, Snapchat, Twitter and Amazon. According to Wood, brands have to act responsibly too. Procter & Gamble said similar things at last year’s congress: the FMCG manufacturer said online advertising was often inefficient and that media channels often create unrealistic expectations with their phony and non-transparent visitor numbers. P&Q subsequently cut 100 million dollars in quarterly marketing budget.


Competitor Rival now retorts P&G’s claim: consumers do not care about fake visitor numbers, how advertisers earn the most and they do not even care about how their data is used or which complex algorithms are used to reach them. The do care about when brands’ ads appear next to child abusers or terrorists, about the moments when they see the same ad 100 times a day or when their data is abused or stolen.


2018 will either become the year of trust of the year where people turn against the tech giants, according to Keith Weed. The problem goes deeper than the media and marketing industries alone, it is an overall problem for all brands and industries. “It is a deep and systematic problem, a matter of faith that threatens to fundamentally undermine the relationship between consumer and brands”, because “when if consumer trust suffers, we all suffers”, he stated.


Keith Weed is WFA Global Marketer of the Year

It may be a coincidence, but Keith Weed has just been awarded the Global Marketer of the Year award by the World Federation of Advertisers (WFA), an achievement bestowed unto him by his colleagues. 


It was the first time the award was presented and Weed immediately received 36 % of the votes. In total, 6,000 marketing professionals cast their vote and gave him the award. The other five nominees were Marc Pritchard (P&G), Raja Rajamannar (Mastercard), Jane Wakely (Mars), Glory Zhang (Huawei) and Hans-Christian Schwingen (Deutsche Telekom).