Monday 16 September 2019

Unilever warns Facebook and Google to clean up advert act

Unilever CEO Paul Polman whose company is one of the world’s biggest spenders on adverts
Unilever CEO Paul Polman whose company is one of the world’s biggest spenders on adverts
John Mulligan

John Mulligan

Unliever's €7.7bn marketing budget could be diverted from platforms such as Facebook and Google if the tech giants can't ensure that adverts aren't placed next to others funding terror or exploiting children, the global consumer goods giant was warned.

Keith Weed, chief marketing office of Unilever - whose brands include Lyons Tea, Dove, Hellmann's, HB and Lynx - warned yesterday in a speech in California that an environment where consumers don't trust what they see online cannot be permitted to persist.

"Unilever will not invest in platforms or environments that do not protect our children or which create division in society, and promote anger or hate," Mr Weed said.

"We will prioritise investing only in responsible platforms that are committed to creating a positive impact in society."

Online ad spending in Ireland hit €445m in 2016, according to the latest figures from the IAB Ireland PwC Online Adspend Study. That was a 31pc increase on the 2015 figure.

But according to that study, just 12pc was spent on fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) - of which Unilever is one of the world's biggest producers.

The spend on adverts for retail propositions accounted for 14pc of the total, and digital ads for finance products and firms accounted for 18pc.

Mr Weed's comments last night are certain to focus the minds of senior executives at Google and Facebook, both of which have their European headquarters in Dublin and employ thousands of workers here.

Google and Facebook are estimated to have taken half of online ad revenue worldwide in 2017 and more than 60pc in the United States, according to research firm eMarketer.

Concerns regarding ad placement on the platforms have been voiced for some time by global companies including Vodafone, and prompted some to either pull or severely retrench their online ad spend, or adopt strict new online advertising policies.

Marks & Spencer, McDonald's and Tesco were among companies that pulled advertising from Google in the UK last year.

"As one of the largest advertisers in the world, we cannot have an environment where our consumers don't trust what they see online," said Mr Weed.

"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."

He added that consumers care about "fraudulent practice, fake news and Russians influencing the US election".

"They don't care about good value for advertisers," he told his audience. "But they do care when they see their brands being placed next to ads funding terror, or exploiting children."

Last year, Marc Pritchard, the chief brand officer of Procter & Gamble (P&G) - whose brands include Pampers, Gillette and Olay - said that a proliferation of fake ad clicks had undermined digital advertising.

Just 25pc of online ad spending reaches the consumer, with the rest skimmed off by a "murky, non-transparent, even fraudulent supply chain" within the industry, Mr Pritchard told a conference in Germany.

P&G said it slashed $100m (€81.5m) from its digital marketing spend in one quarter last year and saw no discernible impact on sales.

Unilever has already been cutting its ad spend to cut costs. (Additional reporting Reuters)

Irish Independent

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