It has been about a year since P&G’s Marc Prichard called out the digital advertising ecosystem, and said that they would be taking their billions of dollars in annual ad spending out of the digital world, which they did for a time. Now, it seems that it is Unilever’s turn.
“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,” Weed said in a speech at the Interactive Advertising Bureau’s Leadership Meeting in Palm Desert. “It is in the digital media industry’s interest to listen and act on this.”
Weed’s remarks also will make implicit reference to the growing pressure on companies in Silicon Valley to regulate the content they promote as well as the current political environment. And the speech directly addresses Russian interference in the 2016 election in the U.S. and describes the digital supply chain as a “swamp,” a Trumpian word if ever there was one.
Last year, Unilever spent nearly $9.5 billion marketing its brands, including Lipton tea, Dove soap, Axe body spray and Ben & Jerry’s ice cream. One quarter of that budget, or about $2.4 billion, was spent on digital advertising.
In a statement, he said, “We cannot continue to prop up a digital supply chain – one that delivers over a quarter of our advertising to consumers – which at time is little better than a swamp in terms of its transparency.”
The issue of poor quality platforms getting ads from top tier customers like Unilever, and then the lack of transparency that allows it to continue, is an issue across virtually every ad network. Even Google and Facebook have long records of displaying ads on undesirable pages.
While many ad networks claim to be working to prevent this type of thing from happening, they are clearly not doing enough. Unilever said that they will be working with IBM to use blockchain in a new pilot program that will be aimed at eliminating ad fraud as well as improving transparency.
What this means in the short term is not clear. They have not yet pulled their advertising budget from the digital ecosystem, but that certainly make be coming.