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BizReport : Social Marketing : February 13, 2018

Unilever CMO pulls no punches addressing Facebook's toxic environment

Brand safety and transparency concerns are leading to big brands putting Facebook and Google under increasing pressure to crack down on fake news, hate speech, online harassment, and other content that creates division in society.

by Helen Leggatt

Recent research by applied computer vision company GumGum and Digiday Media found that 70% of brands say they are taking brand safety "seriously" or "very seriously". While YouTube has been involved in a few brand safety faux pas, it is Facebook that is perceived as the riskiest platform in terms of brand safety.

Now, one of the world's largest advertisers, Unilever, has threatened to pull its significant advertising budget from Facebook and Google who, according to recent research from Pivotal, together accounted 73% of all digital advertising in the U.S. last year.

Keith Weed, chief marketing officer at Unilever, addressed major media, technology and ad companies at the annual Interactive Advertising Bureau conference this week. He pulled no punches saying "we cannot have an environment where our consumers don't trust what they see online" and added the company's refusal to "prop up a digital supply chain... which at times is little better than a swamp in terms of its transparency".

"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," says Weed. "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."

But, will Unilever's departure from Facebook really concern the social media giant? Probably not, says John Battelle, who was on the board of the IAB for many years. Proctor & Gamble pulled its $140million ad budget with Facebook a year ago and, as Battelle observes, have not been tempted back. Instead, the void P&G left has been filled by millions of smaller advertisers promoting Pages they have created themselves.

Tags: advertising, brand safety, fake news, marketing, social media

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