CALIFORNIA, U.S. - Unilever has warned social media companies that it would pull ads if the networks, including Facebook and Google, do not clean up the online 'swamp.’
In a speech at the Interactive Advertising Bureau's annual leadership meeting in Palm Desert, California, the company's chief marketing officer Keith Weed is expected to describe online networks as "a swamp" mired with fabricated news, racist, sexist and extremist content.
Unilever wants social media networks to do a better job of monitoring objectionable content and divisive fabricated news stories.
Weed said in a statement before the speech, "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 trust back."
According to AdAge, Unilever, which has considerable clout as the fourth-largest global advertiser and advertises for brand including Axe, Lipton, Noxzema and Suave, is said to have spent $8.6 billion in 2017.
For over a year now, Facebook has faced criticism for allowing the spread of misinformation - the biggest one of them, an initiative from Russian operatives to influence the U.S. presidential election.
Similarly, Google and Twitter have also been criticized for allowing the spread of fabricated news stories.
According to eMarketer, Google and Facebook are expected to attract more than 65 percent of U.S. digital ad revenues in 2018.
Further, the report noted that Google will capture over $40 billion and Facebook nearly $22 billion.
Weeds meanwhile said that consumers will hold advertisers accountable, too, when they see brands' ads alongside objectionable or questionable content.
He said, "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. Before viewers stop viewing, advertisers stop advertising and publishers stop publishing."
He added that he met recently with Facebook, Google, Twitter, Snap and Amazon "and I repeated one point to each and every one of them. It is critical that our brands remain not only in a safe environment, but a suitable one. Unilever, as a trusted advertiser, do not want to advertise on platforms which do not make a positive contribution to society."
He added that the company will not pay to advertise on "platforms or environments that do not protect our children or which create division in society, and promote anger or hate.”
Adding, "We will prioritize investing only in responsible platforms that are committed to creating a positive impact in society."
He said that advertisers must work with social media to develop a "responsible" platform.
He added, "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.”