Unilever takes aim at social media platforms

13 February 2018

Unilever, the world’s biggest grocery manufacturer, is threatening to pull its advertisements from social platforms such as Facebook and YouTube if the companies don't do more to minimise divisive content on their platforms.

It has more than 400 brands, and in 2016 had a turnover of 52 billion euros (NZ$88 billion). Some 13 of its brands have annual sales of more than NZ$1.7 billion.

Last year, the company spent nearly NZ$13 billion marketing its brands, including Dove, Lipton tea, Axe, and Ben & Jerry's ice cream. One quarter of that (about US$2.4 billion) was spent on digital advertising.

Its global Chief Marketing Officer, Keith Weed, today called on the digital media to better police what he described as a toxic online environment where propaganda, hate speech and disturbing content that exploits children thrive.

"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. It is in the digital media industry's interest to listen and act on this."

He said the company promises to boost more "responsible content", including adverts that tackle gender stereotypes, and will only partner with digital networks that pledge to use an industry standard for advert metrics and improve consumer ad experiences. He has already begun discussions with Facebook, Google, Twitter, Amazon.com and Snap.

In response to Weed's message, Google said it takes its partners and users' trust and safety seriously.

Read more on BBC World News