You may not know the name Unilever, but you know their products. They own everything from Ben & Jerry’s to Marmite, and they spend, on average, $9 billion a year on advertising. As advertising shifts to Facebook and Google, that’s meant that one of the world’s biggest conglomerates finds itself with ads in front of the corpse-mocking antics of the likes of Logan Paul. And they are unhappy about it, to the point where they’re expected today to issue an ultimatum to Facebook and Google: Clean your house, or else.
Gizmodo reports that Unilever’s chief marketing officer, Keith Weed, will make the threat at a digital marketing conference, and Weed isn’t pulling any punches:
“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… 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.”
This would be easy to write off as grandstanding, except that Unilever not only has a lot of heft in marketing, it’s not alone. Its big rival Procter & Gamble has already reduced digital ad spending because of “brand safety” concerns, mostly that its ads were turning up on ISIS propaganda videos. But money talks, especially in marketing, and Unilever making this threat is something not just Google and Facebook, but the wider tech industry, is probably paying attention to.
Just how Google and Facebook react remains to be seen. Part of the problem is their “set-it-and-forget-it” technique of letting algorithms place ads, but hiring vast swaths of humans to figure out which videos are brand-friendly and which aren’t is expensive, and also one of the worst jobs on the internet. So while they may take Unilever’s threat completely seriously, they also may have no way to please the consumer giant.