Unilever Calls Out Facebook, Twitter And Google On Brand Safety

Politicians have rounded on social media for the past couple of years, whether it's fake news, extremist videos or lack of action on trolls. Today, however, the game is moving on. Keith Weed, the head marketer at Unilever, is calling out the social giants. The message is clear -- reform or be boycotted.

Tonight's speech will be huge. Keith Weed is a superb speaker, and has been talking about the transparency issues involved in digital advertising for quite some time. Today will mark a step change in that approach. The focus is moving on from generic industry-wide problems of trust and transparency. 

This evening, according to Marketing Week, Weed will be specifically referencing Google, Facebook, Snapchat, Twitter and Amazon. The sites are being picked out so they specifically listen to the point that Unilever is committed to no longer funding platforms that do not protect children and create division.

Unilever is already in a process of culling agencies to reduce its roster to a more manageable size, and it is also ensuring that content works harder for longer. This drive to save budget to get the most out of its ad dollars now seems to be focussing on quality. In fact, not just quality but perceived quality.

Regular readers will know I have been writing about the flight to quality in publishing that has seen subscription levels soar and more ad budget diverted to responsible news sites. 

Weed would appear to be pointing out that this has to be done for the social sites too. Those that don't do enough to make themselves a safe platform and those that allow fake news and extremism to be hosted for too long, will find Unilever will no longer be feeling the love.

To be honest, you'd have to ask why would anyone want to be advertise on a platform that could be considered not brand safe? YouTube knows all about this question, having suffered two boycotts last year over grotesque, unsuitable content. 

Weed will present this year as the time in which platforms have to get behind the message and understand that brands are willing to vote with their ad dollars when it comes to wanting a place that is safe to have their brand names promoted. 

It will be an interesting year, then. The social media platforms are employing more staff as they seek to reassure the public, governments and brands they are a safe place to browse. So the race is on to do this at a pace that satisfies the likes of Unilever.

The cynic in me suggests this call for the sites to clean up their act comes at a time when they are already making great inroads in to doing exactly that. Nevertheless, you have to admire the stance being taken, and the social media platforms would do well to listen attentively tonight. I reckon Unilever means it.

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