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No, Unilever is not actually pulling its ad budgets from Facebook and Google


Unilever

  • Unilever turned heads in the ad world — and on Wall Street— when its marketing chief Keith Weed seemed to vow to reduce ad spending on tech platforms like Facebook and YouTube.
  • But it turns out, Unilever is not actually pulling its ad budgets from the giant tech platforms. In fact, it has never has.
  • The marketing giant’s approach instead has always been focused on collaborating with the platforms, and increasing the pressure on them from within, Weed told Business Insider.

Earlier this week, Unilever’s chief marketing officer Keith Weed turned heads in the ad world — and on Wall Street— by seeming to vow that the consumer packaged goods giant would reduce ad spending on tech platforms like Facebook and YouTube if they don’t do more to combat divisive content.

“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,” he said during a speech at the Interactive Advertising Bureau’s annual leadership conference in Palm Springs, California.

But it turns out, Weed’s threat wasn’t a real threat.

Unilever — whose roster of brands includes Axe, Magnum and Lipton among others — is not actually pulling its ad budgets from the giant tech platforms. In fact, it has never has.

The marketing giant’s approach instead has always been focused on collaborating with the platforms, and increasing the pressure on them from within, Weed told Business Insider.

In fact, Weed clarified Unilever’s approach of working with the so-called duopoly in an interview on Monday. Here are excerpts:

Tanya Dua:
You’ve been very vocal about the issues around digital advertising and the need for digital platforms to be held more accountable. Do you think there’s been any progress?

Keith Weed:
There has been a really positive change across the digital supply chain, which we shouldn’t underestimate. If you go back to three years ago, and look at the “3Vs” of viewability, verification and value, there has been progress. But of course there’s more work to be done, and we’ve not gotten far enough.

Dua:
But are you actually not going to invest in platforms that are not committed to creating a positive impact in society? Do such threats and declarations actually work?

Weed:
I wouldn’t call them threats; I believe I am making very clear directional quests about what we want, and that will ultimately make a healthier digital media supply chain. Public ultimatums don’t help,
but being positively engaged in partnerships helps. You get greater engagement and action when you challenge them from the inside, as opposed to walking away on the outside.

Dua:
So you believe that engaging with the platforms is the way forward?

Weed:
We engage with the tech giants in the same way that we engage with our product supply chain, expecting the same efficiency from them that we expect from the players in our supply chain. We have a positive relationship with them: I have been on the Facebook Client Council and the Twitter Influence Council for years. Most recently, I talked to the heads of the tech platforms at Davos. I think they are committed to making big changes and I would argue that our approach has worked well.

Dua:
Can you share an example where such an approach has served you well?

Weed:
When YouTube had issues last year, a lot of major advertisers left them and told them to clean up their act. But we decided to stay — because one, we have a very rigorous media strategy and did not have any brand safety issues — but also because we believed that working closely with them would have much more of an impact than just walking away and telling them to sort things out. That has proven t0 be true, look at the recent progress they’ve made on screening content and vetting. We believe in proactively leaning in to help shape the agenda.

Dua:
What is an issue where you think work still needs to be done?

Weed:
The biggest issue ahead of us is responsible infrastructure. Up and until now, shaping up a transparent digital supply chain has been an integral industry issue. But now, it is a society and people issue and is affecting how people engage on the internet. If that is fixed, it will ultimately help with transparency and getting one measurement system across all media. We split advertising budgets because we can’t optimize across media, but there’s only one viewer and one budget.


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