Retail behemoth Unilever will* send a shockwave through the digital advertising industry today when it threatens to withdraw its advertising from the major social media platforms.
At an advertising conference in California later today, Unilever CMO Keith Weed plans to say that digital platforms have become a “swamp” of fake news, racism, sexism and extremism.
“We cannot continue to prop up a digital supply chain … which at times is little better than a swamp in terms of its transparency,” he will say, according to a copy of his speech obtained by CNN.
Might makes right
Unilever is one of the world’s most prolific advertisers, with an annual marketing budget of almost US$10B. Roughly a quarter of its ads are digital. So, when Unilever speaks, the digital ad platforms need to pay attention.
Weed will express concern that the proliferation of objectionable content on platforms like Facebook and YouTube, and lack of protection for children, are eroding social trust, harming users and undermining democracies.
He will warn that Unilever will no longer advertise on platforms that create divisions in society or fail to protect young people.
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Facebook and Google, who together soaked up some 60% of last year’s digital ad spending, have been increasingly under fire for inadequate efforts to protect brands. Their efforts to address the problem largely through automation and algorithms have frequently fallen demonstrably short.