Unilever has thrown the gauntlet down. Unilever Chief Marketing Officer Keith Weed has challenged the digital-media industry to clean up its act. Unilever is the world's largest consumer products company so when Mr. Weed speaks the digital-media industry listens. His bottom line is that if the social networks like Facebook do not do a better job of controlling the user experience vis-a-vis hate speech, racism, etc. then companies like Unilver will stop advertising.
Mr. Weed's remarks were made at an event put on by trade organization, the Interactive Advertising Bureau. Here is some of what he had to say:
Fake news, racism, sexism, terrorists spreading messages of hate, toxic content directed at children – parts of the internet we have ended up with is a million miles from where we thought it would take us. It is in the digital media industry’s interest to listen and act on this. Before viewers stop viewing, advertisers stop advertising and publishers stop publishing.
Consumers don’t care about third-party verification. They do care about fraudulent practice, fake news, and Russians influencing the US election. They don’t care about good value for advertisers. But they do care when they see their brands being placed next to ads funding terror, or exploiting children. They don’t care about sophisticated data usage or ad targeting via complex algorithms, but they do care about not seeing the same ad 100 times a day. They don’t care about ad fraud, but they do care about their data being misused and stolen.”
Mr. Weed stated that Unilever will not advertise on any digital platforms "that do not protect children or which create division in society.” The company will “only partner with organizations which are committed to creating better digital infrastructure, such as aligning around one measurement system and improving the consumer experience.”
This is the most substantial challenge we have seen to current social network and other digital platform practices. Its long overdue and it will be interesting to see how many other companies jump on board.