Global consumer goods manufacturer Unilever has threatened to cancel lucrative advertising with online companies that fail to counter fake news and “toxic content”.
The company, one of the world’s largest advertisers, made its threat at the Interactive Advertising Bureau’s Annual Leadership Meeting in California on Tuesday (AEDT), where its chief marketing officer Keith Weed raised concerns over the spread of illegal and extremist content.
Mr Weed previously met with a raft of Unilever’s digital advertising partners including Facebook, Google, Twitter, Snap and Amazon, to stress that the company does “not want to advertise on platforms which do not make a positive contribution to society”.
“We cannot continue to prop up a digital supply chain – one that delivers over a quarter of our advertising to our consumers – which at times is little better than a swamp in terms of its transparency,” Mr Weed said.
“Fake news, racism, sexism, terrorists spreading messages of hate, toxic content directed at children – parts of the internet we have ended up with is a million miles from where we thought it would take us.
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.”
There are also concerns over how illegal content is impacting public perception of brands.
“Consumers don’t care about third party verification. They do care about fraudulent practice, fake news, and Russians influencing the US election,” Mr Weed said.
“They don’t care about good value for advertisers. But they do care when they see their brands being placed next to ads funding terror, or exploiting children,” he added.
The Anglo-Dutch group owns Streets, Flora, Rexona and Lyx among its stable of brands in Australia.
The company last year spent almost US$9.5 billion ($12 billion) advertising its brands, a quarter of which was spent on digital platforms.