Close×

Consumer goods giant Unilever has threatened to pull its advertising from Google and Facebook, saying it will not invest in platforms that ‘create division’.

Unilever’s chief marketing officer Keith Weed this week announced a new commitment by the company to cut investment in platforms that breed division, and called on the industry to collectively build trust back into our “systems and society”.

Unilever owns a number of food brands including Lipton, Continental, Streets, Weis and Ben & Jerry's.

In a keynote speech at the IAB Annual Leadership Meeting in Palm Desert, US, Weed said the industry must “work together to improve transparency and rebuild consumer trust in an era of fake news and toxic online content”.

Lead consumer analyst at data and analytics company GlobalData Ronan Stafford said consumer brands and media companies need to find a way to work together as people’s lives move increasingly online and the ability to reach them using traditional media channels diminishes.

“Brands have to follow consumers, and the decline of traditional media such as print and television cable services means that brands don’t have a strong alternative to online advertising," he said.

“This makes it even more likely that they’ll take action: a safe and clean online world is increasingly vital to their profitability.”

Stafford noted that Proctor & Gamble had reduced its spending on digital platforms by millions of dollars after an investigation found its adverts were being paired with inappropriate material, such as pro-ISIS videos.

He also said YouTube's new initiative called “Preventing Harm to the Broader YouTube Community” recognised the harm being done to YouTube as a platform connecting content creators and consumers, and sought to repair this relationship.

“These types of initiatives are a good first step, but there is a mountain to climb. Further active measures will need to be taken to repair the fractured relationship between advertisers, content creators, and viewers,” Stafford said.

“Unilever’s recent stance shows that, rather than an exception, this type of detailed vetting of online advertisers will become the norm.’’