Unilever to stop spending on digital platforms that 'breed division'

Unilever will stop spending on digital platforms that "breed division in society or fail to protect children," chief marketing officer Keith Weed will announce in a speech to the Interactive Advertising Bureau's Annual Leadership Meeting in Palm Desert, California, today.

According to commentators, the move will take the industry's brand-safety debate a step beyond trying to police what appears directly next to ads and launch a broad effort by a big marketer to reshape social media.

Procter & Gamble's Marc Pritchard, a little while ago at the same forum, had threatened to cut off spending by the world's biggest advertiser on digital platforms that did not ensure brand safety or provide accredited third-party audience verification. Pritchard said he has not been able to follow through on that threat, though P&G remains off YouTube as it is not fully satisfied with brand-safety improvements there.

In several speeches Weed said Unilever did not cut off spending on YouTube over brand safety and preferred to deal with accountability issues privately rather than chastise platforms publicly.

In a statement issued ahead of his speech, Weed said: "As a brand-led business, Unilever needs its consumers to have trust in our brands. We can't 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 that trust back."

"We will prioritise investing only in responsible platforms that are committed to creating a positive impact in society," Weed will say in prepared remarks.

This is about "having a positive impact on society and whether we as a company want to engage with companies that are not committed to making a positive impact," Weed said in an interview.

According to commentators, a number of tech companies had already been trying to rectify some of their problems.