“Fake news, racism, sexism, terrorists spreading messages of hate, toxic content directed at children ... 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,” stated Keith Weed, Unilever’s CMO in a speech made at the Interactive Advertising Bureau conference in California on Monday.
To ensure that message is received, Unilever has threatened to pull all ads from Facebook and Google unless the companies do something--and quickly--to clean up content.
Last year, Unilever spent $9.4 billion on marketing—about a third of that on digital advertising—making it one of the medium's biggest advertisers.
Facebook and Google alone take in 60% of all digital advertising. The symbiotic relationship between the two gives Unilever ample leverage, with the tech giants feeling the
burn. Plus, many other industries are losing faith in the powerful tech companies.
At first, Facebook appeared ready to rid its channels of fake news through the introduction of a fact-checking network and weed out bigoted content. However, when the task of taking on fake news proved too big, the platform declared itself free from responsibility, leaving the task of verifying news stories to its users.
Since then, publishers have begun to suggest Facebook and other outlets pay them a carriage fee to assure users the news they’re receiving is accurate and trusted. With the constant push and pull between the platform and publishers, the announcement from Unilever is just one more pressure point.
If public trust in Facebook and Google declines to a low enough level, how viable will their platforms be to advertisers, and will Unilever’s stance trickle down through the entirety of the advertising industry?
Weed seems to be ready for a revolution, stating: “2018 is either the year of techlash, where the world turns on the tech giants — and we have seen some of this already — or the year of trust. The year where we collectively rebuild trust back in our systems and our society.”