Unilever to drop advertising on toxic online platforms

By Gwen Ridler

- Last updated on GMT

Unilever will pull advertising from Facebook and Google is they don't work to remove toxic online content
Unilever will pull advertising from Facebook and Google is they don't work to remove toxic online content

Related tags Advertising Unilever

Marmite owner Unilever has threatened to pull advertising from online platforms such as Facebook and Google if they fail to protect children or create division in society and promote anger or hate.

Unilever chief marketing officer Keith Weed has urged the industry to work together to improve transparency and rebuild consumer trust amid a rise in fake news and toxic content online.

He was speaking at the Interactive Advertising Bureau’s Annual Leadership Meeting in Palm Desert, California yesterday (February 12).

Weed accused online platforms of being “little better than a swamp” ​when it came to transparency and said they could run the risk of hurting consumers’ trust in brands.


As a brand-led business, Unilever needs its consumers to have trust in our brands,” ​said Weed. “We cannot do anything to damage that trust – including the choice of channels and platforms we use. So 2018 is the year when social media must win trust back.”

To help rebuild consumer trust, Unilever set out three commitments it would follow when creating digital marketing campaigns.

First, Unilever said it would not invest in platforms that did not protect children, or which created division in society. It would prioritise investing only in responsible platforms that were committed to creating a positive impact in society.

Second, the company would commit to creating responsible content that tackled gender stereotypes and champion this across the industry through the #Unsterotype social media campaign.


Lastly, Unilever said it would only collaborate with organisations that were committed to creating better digital infrastructure, such as aligning around one measurement system and improving the consumer experience.

“If we have any hope as an industry of keeping the trust of our consumers, we need to overhaul the standards of behaviour in digital channels,” ​Weed added.

It is critical that our brands remain not only in a safe environment, but a suitable one. Unilever, as a trusted advertiser, do not want to advertise on platforms which do not make a positive contribution to society.”


Unilever’s call for online platforms to clean up their acts follows a number of companies dropping advertising from sites such as Youtube and Facebook, after the ads were shown unexpectedly next to offensive or extremist content.

In November last year, Mondelēz, Lidl and Mars all pulled advertising from Youtube after The Times ​found ads from major brands were shown next to clips of scantily clad children.

Meanwhile, the digital age is leaving three basic human needs unfulfilled for the post-iPhone generation, which is creating opportunities for food and drink manufacturers,​ according to food strategist and writer Eve Turow Paul.

Related topics Ambient foods Confectionery IT

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