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Unilever rattling Ad Tech’s cage

Unilever rattling Ad Tech’s cage

It’s been hard to miss. The Global CMO of Unilever, Keith Weed, has threatened to pull advertising budgets from online ad tech platforms. He cites a lack of transparency and trust in the digital ecosystem. This is quite the threat, and it’s certainly grabbed the headlines (not least because he distributed his speech to major media outlets beforehand).

His comments build on a topical issue, which – as one of the leading global advertisers – they need to be seen to be ahead of. These issues are debated ad nauseam in the trade media daily. What’s interesting here is that he’s prepared to make the threat in such a public way. He wanted the headlines, and felt that ad tech players would sit up more quickly and take notice (spoiler: they have). I’ll bet P&G, the only advertiser that spends more money than Unilever on media, are kicking themselves that they didn’t take the high ground on this issue first.

Facebook have welcomed Unilever’s commitment to tackling these issues as ‘a great thing’. They’ve pledged to continue to work on this. They also saw their share price dip after the speech (but quickly bounced back). Let’s see how others like Google respond.

Generally Mr. Weed makes a fair and valid point. Ad tech platforms have a lot of work to do, and there’s nothing like a major threat to revenue to motivate a company to take action. The task however is significant. Policing the vast amount of content (and the complex supply chain) is a major task. Let’s see if ad tech can rise to this, and whether Mr Weed is prepared to follow through on his threat if they don’t.

A threat is not worth making unless you’re prepared to follow through, right?

Ciaran Deering
Digital Director

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