This month Unilever’s CMO Keith Weed issued a threat to online advertising platforms – including Facebook, Twitter and Google. In a speech at the annual Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) conference he warned technology firms that “Unilever will not invest in platforms in environments that do not protect children or which create division in society and promote anger or hate.” Weed made it clear that Unilever “will prioritise investing only in responsible platforms that are committed to creating a positive impact on society.”

A year after P&G’s Marc Pritchard cited similar bold ambitions, Weed moved the debate on from something focused on advertiser needs, to a wider societal issue.

There appears to be three key motivators in this decision:

  • A need to ensure Unilever’s ad behaviour doesn’t create a mistrust amongst consumers.
  • A sense of overspending in digital advertising, when it still hasn’t met the demand for greater transparency.
  • A strong desire to use his power to promote positive social change.

Trust and positive behaviour are hot topics at the moment – and not just in advertising. Consumers are more aware of brand behaviour, they care more about how brands act and actively use this information as reasons to choose to buy or not. So, you can see why this is important to a company that owns over 400 family friendly products including PG Tips, Marmite, Dove and Persil.

It’s also important to the tech firms that could be affected by this development. As the world’s second largest marketing spender (in 2017 Unilever spent £6.8bn advertising brands), this has the potential to be hugely damaging to the income of the firms implicated.

It feels like Facebook could suffer the brunt of this move. Though hugely successful in terms of growth and wealth (revenue has been increasing 50% a quarter, and earnings per share stands at more than 70%), Facebook is accumulating enemies and challenges at a rapid rate. Only last week the BBC wrote a damning article on the eight reasons Facebook has peaked. Third on the list was advertiser enmity, due to a lack of transparency and audience delivery over estimations.

Viewed as the most influential CMO out there (as voted for by Campaign in 2017), there is reason to believe others will follow suit.

Yet putting this ambition into practice may be a lot harder than it looks. More importantly, are there alternative options for advertisers?

Perhaps we’ll go back to a world where traditional channels like TV, magazines and newsbrands reign supreme giving advertisers the trusted, transparent and (mostly) socially-acceptable space they are after.

NewsUK has come up with a new tool that allows advertisers to upload the creative assets they would typically post to social platforms Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Once uploaded into the tool’s dashboard, an exact replica of the creative will automatically resize to fit the dimensions of the top ad slot on the Times’ mobile site and The Sun’s desktop and mobile sites.

We’ve also seen ground-breaking moves to champion TV – with ITV, Channel 4 and Sky collaborating to create a greater force to beat the likes of Facebook, but also to demonstrate and remind advertisers that TV has the ability to grow brands. See the next article for more…

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