Unilever Threatens to Pull Advertising Funds from Tech Giants

It was the threat heard ‘round the world as Unilever, a global consumer goods company with a colossal   digital advertising budget (the second largest in the entire world), used its buying power to demand a safer, more positive digital ad platform from Google and Facebook for its more than 2 billion daily consumers.  If their demands aren’t met, the company promises to invest its digital ad budget elsewhere.  Unilever’s Chief Marketing Officer, Keith Weed, is weeding out the Tech Giants, maintaining his stance that these platforms are no longer safe for big-brand advertising.  The threat has created a palpable sense of fear as Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube have already released statements aligning themselves with this commitment towards ad improvements. 

Although, on the surface, this may seem like a power struggle between big-brand advertisers and the duopoly of the digital ad space, the undertone speaks to the importance of brand integrity.  Today, people average as many as five personal social media accounts, and, according to Adweek, spend an average of 50 minutes every day perusing these sites. That means Unilever’s consumers are inundated with ads every day, and Unilever refuses to continue to debase and dilute their brand with divisive, hateful or false news.  As the demographic becomes increasingly socially conscious, ad agencies expect to continue seeing the proliferation of ethical and socially responsible marketing.  Unilever and several other household names operate with full transparency, leveraging data to build an engaging brand that transcends look and feel and taps into this socially conscious zeitgeist.  CNN released excerpts from Weed’s speech earlier this week. Weed states, "2018 is either the year of techlash, where the world turns on the tech giants - and we have seen some of this already - or the year of trust.  The year where we collectively rebuild trust back in our systems and our society."  Weed recognizes that he and other advertisers need to call attention to the issues at hand since currently they have the leverage; the Tech Giants’ ad platforms are almost entirely funded by the billions of corporate ad dollars.  Facebook, for example, earns 85% of its revenue from corporate ads and videos. 

This lesson in brand integrity and creative vision is also important to the broader Supply Management function.  Ethical supply chains have been a hot topic for quite some time now, and as Procurement and Marketing continue to find their footing on how to best operate alongside one another, it is increasingly more important that Procurement understands the significance of maintaining brand integrity.  Branding shapes perceptions and influences purchasing decisions.  Procurement should continue to evaluate agencies to ensure they understand the core brand and messaging, and can promote products that leave a strong impression on both internal stakeholders and consumers.  This topic will certainly inspire a greater discussion.  To learn more about sustainable procurement, brand integrity and socially conscious marketing, or ethical supply chains, contact one of Source One’s Marketing Sourcing experts today.   
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Kaitlyn Krigbaum

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