Unilever representatives are threatening to pull ads from Facebook and Google, which “it says have become a ‘swamp’ of fake news, racism, sexism and extremism,” reports CNNMedia yesterday.
The article by Charles Riley says:
"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 marketing boss Keith Weed will say, according to a copy of his speech obtained by CNN.
Unilever (UL), which owns brands including Dove, Lipton, and Ben & Jerry's, is one of the world's top advertisers. It has an annual marketing budget of roughly €8 billion ($9.8 billion), and 25 percent of its ads are digital.
This announcement from Unilever during the IAB Annual Leadership Meeting 2018 comes a year after the largest advertiser, Procter & Gamble, made the pioneering pronouncement at the same conference and urged all other marketers to demand accountability from vendors, platforms and advertising agencies.
But it seems the digital platforms haven’t met Unilever’s expectations during the year after Marc S. Pritchard, P&G’s chief brand officer, made their ears burn.
The CNNMedia article shows Unilever’s Weed is most upset about alleged child endangerment on YouTube, political divisiveness on Facebook and overall erosion of trust.
On Monday, the CMO Council highlighted to Target Marketing two of its recent reports and its effort to safeguard brand reputations around ad selection.
Its “Brand Protection From Digital Content Infection” program page says CMOs “from the world’s most trusted and respected advertisers are taking steps to protect and safeguard their brands by reducing spend in certain digital channels until better controls, compliance and assurances are in place regarding the placement of ads and the integrity and relevance of content and audiences.”
The research with the same name, published in September 2017, says: “72 percent of marketers are concerned about brand integrity and control when it comes to their programmatic investments, and more than a quarter have actually experienced incidents where their content appeared alongside compromising content.”
Its June 2017 study “How Brands Annoy Fans” shows despite 80 percent of all digital display advertising being programmatic, brands are going to have to monitor their marketing because: “As a result of this digital content infection, nearly half of all consumers indicate they would rethink purchasing from brands, or even boycott products, if the ads from these brands appeared alongside digital content that offended them.”
Liz Miller, SVP of the CMO Council told Target Marketing last night:
Comments like this from Keith Weed, and those made in 2017 by Marc Prichard, echo a sentiment of total frustration senior marketing leaders have, not just with social media, but across all media, especially digital. We RAN into digital gleefully shouting “Look what we can DO!” — we can segment by moms, who have dogs, love the color yellow and have talked about knitting in the last year! — but we stopped asking “what SHOULD we do.”
These calls to action are critical and it will be important for networks, publishers, agencies and media planners to take note. But do not miss that there is also a call to action for marketers here. It is time to refocus our strategies from “can so” back to “should do.”
We need to refocus and rededicate to strategy. Unlike previous opportunities to refocus, instead of refocusing on media mix planning and allocations, we need to focus on the customer. Does our CUSTOMER want us to be here and HOW do they want us to engage.
For Unilever, the brand behind such socially conscious and aware topics like the Dove Beauty campaign, the answer is YES. There is an expectation that Unilever stands by that commitment to kindness, grace and real beauty.
What do you think, marketers?
Please respond in the comments section below.
Related story: YouTube Ups Content Quality for Brands