What a difference a month makes. In February Unilever’s chief marketer, Keith Weed, was in America warning that the FMCG giant was still pushing for greater transparency in the digital advertising supply chain.
It was there that he threw in the sentence that got everyone's attention. The FMCG giant would no longer consider working with platforms that breed division and hatred.
It was a major speech that got picked up by news outlets around the world. Here was, arguably, Britain’s most famous marketer telling Facebook and Google that he had them in his sights. If division around extremism, hate and sexism continued, Unilever’s advertising would be withdrawn.
Interesting, then, that a month later a Campaign reporter finds himself at a table with Keith Weed unravelling what it all meant.
It turns out that Weed isn’t calling for a boycott, such as we saw last year against Google. He tells Campaign he truly thinks the social media giants clearly want to make the world a better place. Unsavoury content is a sign that they’re not there yet and that, in fact, they have reached a different destination rather than where they thought they were going.
Will they reorient themselves? Well, yes, Weed claims they are trying to -- and there’s no need for draconian action from politicians because lawmakers can’t move as fast as the tech giants can themselves.
Don’t know about you but that sounds like quite a turnaround from the bold words of just a month ago? When the Campaign reporter specifically pushed Weed on the subject of whether he had been threatening Google and Facebook, Weed refers to his words as offering "genuine encouragement."
He also used today's interview to placate adland that the halving of its agency roster is now done and there are no immediate plans to keep the cuts going. The idea that content would work harder for longer is still alive and well with Unilever producing 30% fewer content assets. In other words, fewer agencies are producing fewer ads that run for longer and are reappropriated for different markets.
But the cutting is mostly over, and what looked like a thinly veiled threat to pull advertising from the tech giants is no longer there.
You may want to look at this in a couple of ways. Either the headline ran away with itself and made it sound like Weed was calling out Facebook and Google, or he was indeed reading the riot act to the tech giants and has since decided to smooth things down.
I think it's really rather revealing that the Campaign reporter points out they were invited to speak to Keith Weed, a guy who is very hard to secure time with. Perhaps not backtracking, then, but there certainly seems to be a sense of Weed taking the sting out of what he had to say last month, or at least how it was perceived.